It doesn’t take long for tomato seeds to germinate.
Under optimal conditions, your seeds will germinate between 5 to 10 days.
That’s equivalent to binge-watching about 5 seasons of your favorite television series. Quick, right?
It’s easy to spot a tomato seed that has germinated. You will see a tiny green worm-shaped thing on the soil, or what is nerdily called “plumular hook.”
In short, the beginnings of life have sprouted. Rejoice!
Your tomato seedlings have broken the surface!
While tomato seed germination doesn’t take years to happen, the tricky part is how it will happen. How to make it possible for the seed to show signs of life and growth within 10 days?
Germination Fun Facts
Did you know that inside your store-bought tomato, there are a bunch of hidden tomato plants?
Every single seed inside your tomato is a tomato plant waiting to bloom!
Yes, the mini-plants contained in every single seed inside that single red, fat, juicy tomato that you bought at the nearby mini-market are very much alive, believe it or not. They are just dormant, i.e., not growing.
When you germinate the seeds, they will begin to grow. And you can now start preparing your recipe for peach and tomato Caprese, or that palatable fresh tomato salsa!
The World Of Germination
The fun thing about germinating tomato seeds is it can happen in multiple worlds.
And when I say world, it means medium.
Here are the many ways you can germinate tomato seeds—
depending on your environment, capabilities, and even personality.
*Cell Seed Starting Tray
If you’re an indoor kind of planter, you can use any of the following:
- Trays with potting soil
- Seed starter pellets
- 6-cell seed starting tray (highly recommended!)
There are many different types and sizes of grow tents.
A grow tent provides a suitable environment for germinating indoors.
Light, water, temperature, and humidity can be controlled in grow tents so that your plants grow faster and stronger.
Also, grow Tents come in handy if your area has long winter.
If you are a Type A personality, hydroponics will thrill you. This is a very, very controlled method of germinating seeds.
Laugh like an evil scientist while you manipulate the growth process of your seeds by meticulously controlling their environment.
Yes, you have trust issues with nature and you hate unpredictability.
By this method, you provide your tomato seeds exactly what they need (perfect temperature and pH balance and full access to nutrients) when they need it.
*Old-fashioned But Risky Outdoors
You have a garden with rich soil, and you live in a warm, sunny place. You like the element of surprise and random acts of unpredictability.
You are the adventurous type; therefore, germinating seeds outdoors can suit you.
The idea of a challenging environment excites you because you are exposing your seeds to the following enemies:
- Intense heat
- Naughty kids
- Plant/vegetable thieves
Reasons Why Your Tomato Seeds Aren’t sprouting
So it’s been 10 days and …. what?
Why are my tomato seeds not germinating?
Where did I go wrong?
Well, chalk it up to bad luck. Kidding. Your tomato seeds are not germinating because of these mistakes:
Your tiny guys need water. As they are mature, they naturally dry out.
This is why they need sufficient water to kickstart their growth and metabolic process.
Additionally, water is needed to break down the coating of each tomato seed, which is important for the seedling to peep out of the soil and say hello to your excited face.
When I mentioned “sufficient water” earlier, it is not equivalent to waterboarding your tomato seeds.
Too much water will result in waterlogging and what you call “compaction,” wherein the movement of water through the soil becomes restricted. When this happens, you are cutting off the seeds’ oxygen flow.
How much water do tomato seeds need to germinate? The basic principle is not to allow seeds to sit in water. The idea is to allow excess water to drain away from the seeds, then out of the bottom of the pot. Water should be at room temperature.
3. Planted non-viable seeds (Elderly Seeds and poor storage )
Seeds that are over 10 years old can reduce their germinating power to only 50 percent. Your tomato seeds can germinate better if they are between 4 and 5 years old.
Tomato seeds can easily be damaged by moisture and high temperatures when not stored properly.
4. Wrong Temperature
Tomato seeds are kind of picky when it comes to temperature. They will refuse to germinate in high temperatures of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Too low temperature will also prove futile.
When at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, your seeds might germinate, but it will take up to 40 days.
So what is the optimum temperature for successful germination? It’s between 65- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is within that range, you can count on your seeds to germinate between 6 to 8 days.
5. Fungi Terror
Sometimes fungi tend to hamper our tomato garden dreams. Soil-borne fungi attack the seedlings immediately after germination.
As a result, the seedlings will wilt and decay. The tell-tale sign that your seeds suffered from a fungi apocalypse is the white mold sticking around the seedlings.
The cause of this fungi attack is what horticulturists call “damping off,” when the seedling either failed to surface or it collapsed just after emergence.
This is primarily caused by indoor germination done under terrible temperatures and humidity.
6. Mischievous Creatures
So it’s been 10 days or more and there is still no sight of seedlings or plumula hooks. If you were trying to germinate tomato seeds out in the open, there’s a likelihood that the poor seeds were eaten before they can even germinate.
If you have a CCTV camera, check the tapes— and you will see who stole the seeds and ate them.
Don’t be surprised if you see rats, mice, and even birds. What your CCTV won’t catch are the tiny culprits, like worms, aphids, beetles, and other pests.
7. You didn’t use sterile or new containers
Dirty containers are the most common source of fungal and mold infections.
As soon as the season starts, I clean them by submerging them in bleach water. You can also pray them with sanitizing bleach solution then give them a good rinse before use
8. Seeds Are Not Getting Enough Oxygen
All seeds need Oxygen for germination and growth.
In the soil, there are tiny pockets of air that provide oxygen for the plants.
Make sure you use the proper soil.
Most loose soil has plenty of air for seeds, but if the seed is submerged in water, it will not have enough oxygen to germinate.
9. You applied too much fertilizer or Raw manure.
Fertilizers provide crops with essential nutrients such as nitrogen, but excessive Fertilizers can hurt the plants.
While it’s also possible that Uncomposted manure contains harmful bacteria, such as E. coli and other pathogens, also contains high levels of nitrogen, ammonium, and salts, which can damage and burn plants.
10. Planting seed too deep
If seeds are planted too deep in the soil, they may grow into weak seedlings or fail to sprout at all. It is crucial to bury them at the right depth
Check this article , I also wrote about What Happens If You Plant A Seed Too Deep?
Do tomato seeds germinate better in the dark?
As in inside dark cabinets, or windowless bedrooms? Surprisingly, yes!
Turns out, tomato seeds don’t need light to germinate.
They can germinate better in the dark. However, after germination and you see the little guys already emerging (the seedlings), that’s when they need light.
Like so much light— they need 14 hours of light a day!
How do I make tomato seeds germinate faster?
Hold your horses! You can’t rush the art of germinating tomato seeds!
Well, yes, you actually can— by using a paper towel. Here’s a step-by-step guide if you’re the impatient kind.
Paper Towel Germination
Get a wide and clear plastic or glass container that comes with a tight lid. Carefully place a piece of paper towel on the bottom.
Then gently pour water until the paper towel is moist— not floating in the water.
There should be no excess water at all. Or you can soak the paper towel, squeeze out the excess water, before putting it across the bottom of your container.
Sprinkle the tomato seeds all over the paper towel. Make sure they are spread out. You need socially distanced seeds.
Close the lid. Do not leave the container under the sun; otherwise, you are going to kill your seeds. They can’t take too much heat.
The following day, take a peek at the seeds. If they have germinated within 24 hours, then you made a mistake— they are not tomato seeds.
They could be broccoli, lettuce, or even kale. The quickest time your tomato seeds will germinate on the paper towel is 3 days.
So it’s Day 3 or Day 5 and you are delighted that your tomato seeds have germinated. Congratulations! As soon as you see roots, you must immediately plant them in pots. The soil must be saturated with water.
Daily mist. Now settled in their new home (the pots), gently mist the seedlings every single day for one week.
More Germination tips
–Sow them Dry
The tomato seeds need to be completely dry when you plant them. Then, when moistened in the soil, the seed’s furry coating becomes jelly-like, which helps the seed to stick in place in the soil.
And did you know that the seed coating releases special chemicals that aid in the growth process? Yes, it’s a miracle.
Too little water, too much water— this is the problem. You have to master the perfect balance of H20 to inspire the seeds to germinate beautifully.
The trick here is to use a pump spray bottle to perfectly moisten the soil or the seed starting mix.
–Into The Light
With the right temperature mentioned earlier, and the right amount of water, expect to see a tiny sign of life within 7 days.
As soon as the seedlings emerge, place them under a bright light— artificial or natural. But if you choose natural (sunshine), then monitor them to prevent the seedlings from drying out.
As soon as you see the first-ever leaf, then it is time to transfer the seedlings into larger containers. Three weeks later, they should be repotted.
–Do Not Touch
With your excitement, you might be tempted to stroke the main stem of your tomato seedlings. Wrong move.
At this stage, they are ultra-sensitive and your touch can instantly bruise the juicy tissues. Unintentionally beaten-up tomato seedlings can attract a fungi attack.
–Slow Hardening Off
If your tomato seedlings are indoor-grown, do not immediately expose them to the great outdoors. Do not shock them.
Do it slowly, like first removing the lid of the container so they can get a taste of sunshine and wind. Seven days would be enough to prep your seedlings to experience outdoor life.
Practice Makes Perfect
Don’t beat yourself up if you fail the first or second time around. Germinating Tomato seeds require practice and patience. With love and attention, you’ll quickly learn the process of victorious germination!