Are you thinking of how to grow tomatoes from seeds without soil?
You might be dreaming of enjoying and benefitting from delicious homegrown tomatoes but you don’t have a garden with access to topsoil.
Or you want to save on your budget by planting your own tomatoes but you are worried that it will be hard to grow tomatoes from seeds without soil.
It’s actually simpler than you think!
If you follow my guide below, I outline the easiest way how to grow tomatoes from seeds without soil, what other mediums you can use, and how to care for the tomato seedlings!
How To Grow Tomatoes From Seeds Without Soil?
Step 1: Soak Paper To Place Your Tomato Seeds
Step 2: Tuck In Your Tomato Seeds
Step 3: Bottle Up The Tomato Seeds
Step 4: Unveil The Tomato Seeds
We will also be looking at:
- Advantages Of Growing Tomatoes From Seeds Without Soil
- Other Mediums To Use When Growing Tomatoes Without Soil
- How To Care For Your Tomato Seedlings
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How To Grow Tomatoes From Seeds Without Soil? Ultimate Guide
Tomatoes are a popular option for gardeners to grow from seed because there are interesting varieties that are rarely available as seedlings.
Fortunately, you can grow tomatoes from seeds without any soil, compost, or leaf litter at all.
Before you start, gather your materials such as tomato seeds, a paper towel, a bottle with a cap or a resealable bag, and water.
To improve your chances of success, here are my top tips for growing tomatoes from seed without soil:
Step 1: Soak Paper To Place Your Tomato Seeds
Dip your paper towel in water so that it is moist throughout and place your tomato seeds on the paper.
When growing tomato plants from seeds, remember that the seeds will germinate better when it is completely surrounded by moisture.
It will also often show rapid growth under warm and bright conditions.
Step 2: Tuck In Your Tomato Seeds
Space the seeds evenly over the paper and tuck in the tomato plant seeds by folding the paper towel.
For smaller seeds, you can leave less space between each one.
Step 3: Bottle Up The Tomato Seeds
Take the folded-up seeds, insert them into a bottle and close the cap. Lightly screw it on so that you can still allow oxygen in.
This is an important step on how to grow tomatoes from seeds. Bottling up the tomato seeds helps to keep all the moisture in and also keep your seeds happy!
Don’t worry if you don’t have a bottle to use, you can use other containers you have at home like a glass jar or even a resealable bag.
You can leave the bottle or resealable bag in a warm place, I personally like to leave it by the window sill where they will get plenty of sunlight.
Remember to keep the paper moist until the seeds germinate and as they begin to grow.
Step 4: Unveil The Tomato Seeds
Lastly, time to unveil your tomato seeds – super simple!
If you’re wondering how long do tomato seeds take to grow, the germination process usually takes 5 – 10 days.
What happens is that the water from the paper towel breaks down the seed coat. This makes the nutrients in the endosperm accessible to the plant.
The embryonic root, also known as the radicle will first come out of the seed. This will push to become the first main root. There will be other roots that may begin branching off.
As soon as the seeds develop their first roots, you can carefully remove your seedlings and transfer them to plant in potting mix, soil, or water-based growing systems.
Advantages Of Growing Tomatoes From Seeds Without Soil
You might be wondering, what are the advantages of growing tomato seeds?
Well simply put, planting tomatoes from seeds at home is a great way to save money. You can buy a packet of 20 seeds for the same price as one seedling!
This will help leave room in your gardening budget for other things you might need.
Another great motivating factor is that you will have a wide selection of varieties to choose from. This includes less common cultivars you would likely find at the local plant nursery.
Other Mediums To Use When Growing Tomatoes Without Soil
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also consider other mediums for growing and planting tomato seeds without soil. Let’s take a look below:
1. Grow Tomatoes From Seeds In Sponges
A sponge is a good option for starting seeds because the material holds moisture well to the seeds. This will allow the tomato seeds to begin the germination process.
I would recommend using sponges made out of natural material.
When there are no bleaches or dyes, your tomato seeds will just absorb the water and it would be cleaner and better for them.
For detailed instructions, you can check out this video on how to plant seeds in a sponge.
2. Start Tomato Seeds In Pulp Made Out Of Untreated Waste Paper
In case you don’t have any paper towels handy, you can also consider starting tomato seeds on a substrate of untreated waste paper.
You can use materials like a cardboard box, toilet roll tubes, or even pages from sketchbooks.
To make the pulp, you first shred the waste paper and soak it in hot water. Leave them to soak for a while before wringing out the mix. Then you can use it in the same way you would paper towels!
3. Plant Tomato Seeds In Organic Cotton Wool
This is a great alternative if you have spare organic cotton wool at home.
Organic cotton wool provides moisture and it also allows you to watch the tomato seeds germinate on top of the pillowy white surface. It is certainly an exciting sight to see!
You start by spreading a layer of cotton wool on a tray and mist the cotton wool with water until it is damp.
Break up the fibers by pulling the cotton wool slightly apart. Then, nestle the seeds into the top 1 – 2 inches apart.
Place the tray in a bright area and remember to mist the cotton wool daily so that it stays moist.
4. Sprout Tomato Seeds In Jars
If you want to germinate tomato seeds and use them as sprouts, you can do it in any type of big-size jar.
Add the seeds into the jar and cover it with an inch of filtered water, then let it sit for 6-8 hours. You can start it in the morning and by evening time, drain the water. Afterward, let the seeds sit overnight.
The next day, add enough water to cover them and let them sit for a few minutes. Then, strain using the stainless steel lid.
Make sure that the jar is in a warm place. Rinse the sprout 2 times a day and you will see the seed put out the root germ.
5. Grow Tomatoes From Seeds In Plant Fiber Mats
You can also grow tomato seeds in fiber mats such as this one.
Fiber mats have a high water-holding capacity and natural fiber allows for strong support for tomato seeds to germinate.
You will need to lay the mat on a tray and place it in direct sunlight for at least 8 hours every day. Keep the mat moist by spraying it once or twice a day.
Keep an eye on the seeds and move them to a growing area once shoots have begun to form.
6. Start Tomato Seeds In Fine Wood Shavings
The final medium to consider is fine wood shavings. You might have wood shavings for your pet’s bedding and that can work well.
With wood shavings, you won’t have to worry about weed seeds or soil diseases and it can help you grow fresh tomatoes even in small spaces.
You will need to prepare it in a large container with holes in the bottom for drainage and fill the container with the wood shavings. Place the container where you would get plenty of sunlight for your tomato seeds.
Choose Your Variety Of Tomato Seeds
The best part about growing your own succulent tomatoes at home is that you get to choose your own variety of tomato seeds!
You can experiment with a few different types to find which one you like the best.
I would recommend Cherry Tomatoes as they grow fairly quickly. Another option is Yellow Pear Tomatoes, they are often sweet and delicious!
Some tips to keep in mind when choosing your variety:
- Start with tomato plants that grow smaller-sized tomatoes as they will grow well inside smaller pots
- Choose organic seed if you prefer to eat organic produce
- Start at least six of each seed variety in case of a lower germination rate (so you won’t get disappointed!)
How To Care For Your Tomato Seedlings
Caring for your tomato seedlings start way earlier, from the point that you decide when to start growing tomatoes from seed.
The best season for growing tomatoes is in the summer and most seed packets recommend starting your seeds 4 – 6 weeks before the last frost date.
Doing this will allow your tomato plant to go through the germination and growth process, all ready to bear fruit when warm weather arrives.
To avoid growing tomatoes from seed problems, you’ll need to care for your tomato seedlings as they are still delicate.
Below are my top tips to make sure that you can care for it properly:
1. Warmth And Light Are Important For Tomatoes
Warmth and light are the two most important elements for successfully growing your tomatoes.
Make sure that the seedlings are warm and moist, and provide them with enough light.
I like to place them in sunny areas with at least 8 hours of sunlight during the day. If they seem to be leaning in one direction, rotate it.
Keep an eye on the seedlings so that they don’t dry out. You will need to water it wisely and you can use a pump spray bottle to thoroughly moisten it.
Once your tomato seedlings have leaves, start feeding them with liquid fertilizers about once a week.
2. Pot The Tomato Seedlings In Stages
As your tomato seedlings grow (yay!), it’s best to move the seedlings to a slightly larger container. After the first true leaf appears, move it to larger paper cups or plastic pots.
After a couple of weeks or as soon as you see roots growing through the bottoms of the containers, you need to pot it again to a larger container.
3. Carefully Handle Tomato Seedlings
When handling tomato seedlings, never touch the main stem because the juicy tissues are easily bruised. If it gets bruised, it can cause the seedlings to rot.
You can handle the tomato seedlings by their leaves instead of their delicate stems.
The main stem is also prone to damage if a seedling falls over when it becomes top-heavy with new leaves. You can always prop it up with toothpicks or a wooden skewer.
4. Take Your Time To Harden Off Tomato Seedlings
If you’re wondering can you plant tomato seeds outside, the answer is yes but only if you have the optimal conditions in your garden and season in your area.
Most gardeners don’t prefer planting tomato seeds outside directly. I personally like to grow them in conditions where I can easily control and optimize them for the seeds.
When your seedlings have grown and you need to start transplanting them, your tomatoes first need a transition period.
This is known as “hardening off” when you adjust the tomato seedlings from the protected environment in your home to their new location outdoors.
Transplants are often vulnerable to outdoor weather conditions. When you make a gradual transition, it will help them become more resilient!
Gradually introduce your tomatoes to the outdoors for a few hours at a time. Slowly increase the amount of time outdoors and the amount of wind exposure and sunlight they receive.
Allow at least a week for the plants to prepare themselves for life outdoors.
5. Transplant Your Tomatoes To The Garden
Now that your tomatoes have at least two or three sets of true leaves and you’ve gone through the hardening-off phase, it’s time to transplant them to the garden!
The question now is how to transplant tomato seedlings?
First, ensure that the soil temperature is at least 60°F because tomatoes need warm soil. You can check using a soil thermometer.
Dig a hole larger and deeper than the pot that you’re transplanting from so that new roots will form and add compost to the soil. Try to avoid pulling the plant out by the stem because it’s delicate, only handle the soil if you can.
If you use a plastic pot, squeeze the sides to loosen it and tilt the tomato plant sideways to slide it out instead.
Make sure to plant the tomatoes as deep as the seed leaves as this will help them develop a strong root system.
It takes a lot of work but it feels so rewarding to harvest your own tomatoes that you started as tiny seeds!
Once your tomatoes have all grown, you have the option of harvesting tomato seeds. It’s a great way to preserve a variety that grew well in your garden!
Here is a video on how to remove seeds from tomatoes so that you can harvest and save them for next year 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Grow A Tomato Without Soil?
So, can you grow a tomato without soil? Yes absolutely, you can grow a tomato without soil. A popular method of growing plants without soil is called hydroponics. It uses water fortified with mineral nutrients and oxygen.
There is a farm in Italy that produces a kilogram of tomatoes using just 2 liters of water compared to 74 liters in the fields!
Will The Tomato Seeds Sprout Even Without Using The Soil?
Yes, the tomato seeds will sprout even without using soil! When starting tomato seeds indoors, they should be started in a soilless seed-starting mix.
This is typically a mix of perlite and peat. Don’t start tomato seeds indoors in regular soil as it will hold water and could contain organisms that might harm your baby plants.
Can You Germinate Seeds In Just Water?
If you’ve been wondering can you germinate seeds in just water, no, you can’t germinate seeds in just water. Water on its own doesn’t have enough nutrients for seeds to germinate.
Roots also need to grasp onto something as they grow and they can’t do this in water. Check the information on the seed pack if the seeds require warmer or colder temperatures during germination.
How Do Seeds Germinate Without Soil?
There are various germination methods for seeds to germinate without soil:
1. Start Seeds in Pulp Made Out Of Untreated Waste Paper And Card
2. Start Seeds in Paper Towels
3. Start Seeds in Organic Cotton Wool
4. Start Seeds in Sponges
5. Start Seeds in Natural Material and Plant Fiber Mats in Containers
Grow On And Seed Away!
Well, there you go, gardener! Now that you have all the best tips on how to grow tomatoes from seeds without soil, you are all set to start planting the seeds. Don’t let the lack of soil stop you.
If you follow the steps above and handle the seedlings with care, you will be enjoying your delicious homegrown tomatoes in no time.
And once you get the hang of it, you might find yourself trying other varieties of tomato seeds very soon.
If you found this guide helpful, make sure to share it with your gardening buddies and leave a comment below!
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