Growing Tomato (& Tomatillos) from seed without artificial light (Pictorial)

Growing Tomato (& Tomatillos) from seed without artificial light (Pictorial)
Hey everyone,
This will be my second year gardening and I decided to try growing plants from seed.  Last year I mostly grew things from seedlings (tomato, squash, melons, peppers) because I was really intimidated by the idea of having a light system, and fans occillating to make the plants stronger, etc.
This year encouraged by some garden buddies I decided to give it a try.  (Cue the music…time for my thank you speech)….
Thanks to Trudi from for not only providing most of the seeds but also giving great instructions for how to save seeds.  I was able to save my marvel strip seeds and they all germinated!!  She also gives great tomato growing advice in general.  Thanks also to Carolyn, Digdirt, Rnewste for sharing their great knowledge and to Sprtsguy76 (Damon) and Tn_veggie_gardener (steve) for their tomato enthusiasm and support.  Most importantly thanks to my wonderful husband for taking the babies so I can have time to baby my plants.
I did not have any fancy equipment, just some coffee filters, baggies, and plastic boxes.
Here is the what I am growing from seed, most are from trudi_d at
cherokee purple
isis candy
black cherry
early ssabukis aliana
goji faranji
green tomatillo (from baker creek)
marvel strip (from seeds i saved last summer)
I am going to donate the plants to my son’s pre-school since they have a great garden as well as give them to friends that I have encouraged to start gardening.
How to Germinate Seeds (Coffee Filter Method)
Day 1: February 13, 2010
I took some coffee filters I had and cut them in half so I had 2 little envelops.  I wet the filters and lightly squeezed them dry then put the seeds between the layer of coffee filter.  I then put each seed variety in its own little labeled sandwich bag (with a bit of air in each bag).
I placed the sealed baggies in a tupperware container that i put on top of my computer (where i know it stays warm).
Day 6: February 19, 2010 germination!
Within 6 days most of my seeds had germinated and I planted them each in some cups that I found in our garage.
Day 6: February 19, 2010 Plant in cups
I labeled each cup and started out putting 1 seed in each cup, then got lazy and started putting 2-3 seeds in each cup. My plan was to seperate them again when they got bigger. I placed these plants near a window that gets great morning light.
Day 36 : March 21, 2010 I got me some tomato (& tomatillo plants)!

Around March 10th I started to put the plants out when it was not too cold, windy or raining.  I first started out in some shade for a couple of hours a day.  Then I put them in full morning sun, but out of midday sun for a few days.  On overcast days, I would just leave them out all day.  I did make a mistake and leave them out in full sun on thusday when it was a clear day and reached 80 degrees.  3 of my plants got some burnt leaves but I just got rid of them.

; It was a little tight in my plastic box so now it is not so squished.

There are a few things I will do differently next time:
1. after seeds germinate I will plant them in a seed tray and then seperate the plants when they are small and plant them in individual cups.
Hope this pictorial encourages others to try to grow tomato plants from seed!  Let me know if you have any questions.


13 thoughts on “Growing Tomato (& Tomatillos) from seed without artificial light (Pictorial)

  1. Everything looks great! I'm trying oregano for the first time, since they have a low germination rate then need to be refrigerated after germination, I used the same sprouting method for them.

  2. I'm going to try this method for the couple of other varieties I'm going to grow this year. Great tutorial!

  3. Hey Hannah, i am glad you found this…i am sure you will have great success with your seed germination. I am going to start germinating my squash, melon, watermelon seeds next week. They only take about 2 weeks from start until plant out so I want to make sure the weather is warm enough to put out. they are fussier than tomatoes about being put in warmer soil.

  4. Hello there! I will try that technique next time. When I germinated my seeds, I just kinda placed ten of them in a cup. I killed a lot of them when I tried transplanting. So those are month old seedlings, huh? Looking good!

  5. Hi Chris,

    yes a little over a month old…the coffee filter method is pretty easy. i had almost 100% germination rate and 90% survival to seedling rate ready to plant out.

  6. I'm not sure what I'm not doing right. Your month old seedlings are bigger than my two-month old ones!

  7. chris, are you bringing your plants outside to get sun and inside at night? what type of plants are they? what type of soil are you using?

  8. You know, I'm checking out the pictures. It looks like you didn't put a lot of the potting mix per cup. Not bad. The seedlings still got a lot bigger. I've always thought you had to put a lot of soil.

  9. My seedlings are just outside. I don't put them in at night.

    The label of the seed packet just said, "Hybrid Tomatoes".

    I used some basic potting soil that's available in the seedling bank.

  10. Hi Chirs,

    if it is still cold at night you may want to bring your seedlings in…cold weather makes seedling not grow quickly..that may be your problem.

    i only put a little soil hoping to "pot up" by adding more soil and having a long root system….

  11. Well, I've decided to do something a little old school. I just throw the tomato seeds from my salads into pots. It's low maintenance. Something's bound to grow, right?

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