Skip to content

How to Start Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant by Seed

Planting your own vegetables is as easy, fulfilling, and will give you a bountiful harvest!

Planting your own vegetables is as easy, fulfilling, and will give you a bountiful harvest!

The sight of the wind blowing through the midwinter barren oak branches hardly encourages me to begin to start my summer garden.  The way I feel doesn’t matter, however, because around the corner comes the summer heat and for my garden to be part of it, I have to start now.  Sure, I could buy the vegetables for the garden when I do buy them, I choose Bonnie Plants  – they are GMO free), but planting by seed gives me access to many more varieties than those available at the nursery and allows me to grow my garden less expensively. I also plant a lot of heirloom vegetables from seeds saved from the previous year.

Since the nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, take the longest to produce fruit, they should be started indoors before any of the other vegetables.

Plant enough Heirloom and Hybrid tomatoes to eat right away (everyday of the harvest season) and enough to preserve for the entire year.

Plant enough Heirloom and Hybrid tomatoes to eat right away (everyday of the harvest season) and enough to preserve for the entire year.

Plan to seed tomatoes around 6-8 weeks before your average last frost.  If you live in the South, they should be the only vegetables that you HAVE to start early.

I look for ways to use all the peppers from the garden. I can just about use them in everything that I create - even desserts believe it or not!

I look for ways to use all the peppers from the garden. I can just about use them in everything that I create – even desserts believe it or not!

Sure, you could get a head start with your other vegetables, such as squash and melons, a couple of weeks before the last frost, but they produce relatively quickly and often have trouble transplanting. I find it best just to plant them directly into the garden.

Eggplant is fantastic used in place of pasta in lasagna type dishes or simply used as the main ingredient in eggplant hummus.

Eggplant is fantastic used in place of pasta in lasagna type dishes or simply used as the main ingredient in eggplant hummus.

STEP 1 – Prepare Soil

To begin, prepare small containers (cell trays that contain many small compartments on one flat work great) with a good seed-starting soil medium.  Don’t substitute this soil medium for potting mix, which contains large pieces of bark, or garden soil, which compacts easily.  Believe me; results are poor.

STEP 2 – Plant Seeds

Place 2 or 3 seeds in each container, at 1/4” deep. Pat down soil medium, and water the soil.

STEP 3 – Keep Plants in Warm Location

Place the newly sown vegetables in a warm location, preferably 75° or warmer, but temperatures of 65° or greater will work fine are much easier to accommodate (like in the house). Like most plants, the vegetables need to consistently be in moist (but not saturated) soil throughout their growing season. Once the seedlings emerge, relocate to a sunny locations where they can receive 5-6 hours of light and enjoy the comfortable temperature of around 70°.  Water the seedlings with a weak, half strength solution of liquid fertilizer when needed.

STEP 4 – Transplant and Harden Off

Once the first true leaves appear on the seedling (when they are around 2 inches tall), transplant vegetables in 3-4 inch pots filled with similar soil medium.  Also at this time, snip the extra seedlings you planted in each cell so that each pot contains only one plant.

A couple of weeks before planting, begin to harden off the seedlings by bringing then outside.  Start by placing them in a partly sunny area for about an hour one day when the weather begins to warm. Follow this by a couple hours of sun the next day.  By the end of a week or 10 days of hardening, the tomatoes are ready for the garden.

One of the joys of gardening is finding that my tomatoes have ripened on the vine and are prime for picking!

One of the joys of gardening is finding that my tomatoes have ripened on the vine and are prime for picking!

A Few Extra Tips for Tomatoes

Tomatoes, however, benefit from a couple more details. When you transplant the tomato seedlings to bigger pots, plant the tomatoes a little deeper than originally (up to the true leaves).  Also, following transplanting, occasionally run your hand through the tops of the tomatoes or have a fan gently blowing on them (to simulate wind) for sturdier plants.

By simply following these guidelines, you will have great healthy young plants that will give you amazing flavor fantastic dishes for your family. Enjoy the great outdoors and the harvest of your hands!

8 responses to “How to Start Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant by Seed”

  1. Ally says:

    In my area the price of one transplant is often more than a package of seeds. When you look at the cost from that perspective, it’s easy to see the savings. Growing your own transplants does take a little work, but your blog will help people get off to a good start.

  2. […] a believer in making things easy as well as growing and buying local. I Grow red peppers, persimmons, peaches, oranges, okra, and black-eyed peas and add them to the board making this a […]

  3. Monica tedford says:

    What soil do I use to start my seeds. What did you mean by medium?

    • stacy says:

      Hi Monica! So good to hear from you. The medium in which I start seeds is potting soil medium. Please send me a picture to FB when you plant!! I’d love to post it.

  4. […] will not tolerate anything lower than 65 degrees. Squash, tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers need very warm soil. For okra, the soil needs to be even warmer than […]

  5. […] always try to grow my own tomatoes and peppers, but if you don’t, I recommend going to the farmers market and getting an solid batch of […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *