Tomatoes are delicious annual fruiting plants native to the Americas that are a distant relative of the potato. They come in many different colors and flavors, and have been adopted and adapted the world over by many cultures.
Starting tomatoes from seed can seem daunting, but is a manageable task for any gardener. The seeds like to be warm during germination. You can start your seeds as early as February if you have a greenhouse or warm indoor space with good sun. Take a small container (approx. 2 cups) with holes in the bottom and partially fill it with dirt, pack it down a little with your hand and place a seed in the center. Cover with 1.5 inches of soil and pack the soil down firmly. Place the cup in a container that will catch the runoff water. Water the cup with enough water to saturate all the soil in the cup. Let the excess water run out of the cup; you do not want standing water in the cup. keep the soils moist but not soaked for about 2 weeks until germination. For best results plant on or near the new moon.
As your little tomato grows, it will want to be warm at all times. They like similar temperatures to humans 65 – 85 and full sun. A window is a great place during the day because of the sun, but it can be very cold at night, so you may need to move your little plant elsewhere at night. If its warm and sunny you can bring your friend outside for some good sunlight. Water every few days to keep the soil evenly moist; avoid standing water in the pot because it will lead root problems.
You must wait until after the last frost to transplant your tomato outside. In Santa Cruz you can begin transplanting in late March, but if it nighttime temperatures are regularly going below 40 or 50 degrees you should wait. Some gardeners plant in March and April, but others swear you should wait until May. It can be tempting to rush the transplanting because you are in a hurry or you think that planting sooner will give the plant more time to grow; but cold weather will stunt your plant, and plants transplanted later will easily outpace cold stressed early planted tomatoes. All in all planting tomatoes is a learning experience that requires common sense and a nurturing spirit.