Learn How to Germinate Tomato Seeds Faster

Germination of seeds is the first step towards tomato gardening. This is a process whereby a seed breaks open to develop roots, stems, and leaves under ideal conditions. When intending to plant tomatoes, you may be eager to know how the seeds can be germinated faster.

Under normal conditions, tomato seeds take 6 to 10 days to germinate. The seeds require a soil temperature of 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate. The germination rate and percentage increase when there is optimum soil moisture content, temperature, humidity, and air circulation.

Germinating tomatoes faster

How long do tomato seeds take to germinate?

Under normal conditions, tomato seeds take 6 to 10 days to germinate. The germination period may vary depending on various factors such as:

Soil temperature

The temperature of the soil is an important factor when it comes to tomato seed germination. It affects the time taken for the seeds to sprout, and the rate and percentage of seed germination. The optimal temperature for tomato seed germination is 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The lowest temperature that can support tomato seed germination is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, the highest temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, if the soil temperature decreases below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or rises above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the seeds may not be able to sprout.

High temperature and humidity also provide proper conditions for the growth of mold. Mold can cause the seeds to rot. You may want to germinate your seeds a bit early when the temperatures are still cool before the onset of summer. If the soil temperature is too low you can devise ways to bring it up.

Placing heating lamps right above the seed containers can also help to keep the soil warm. Although light is not necessary during germination, it can help after the sprouting of the seeds. This technique is best when practicing indoor tomato gardening.

Soil moisture content

For the seeds to germinate, moisture must be available in the soil. However, the soil is not supposed to be soaking wet. The soil is supposed to allow air to reach the seeds.

Squeezing a fistful of moistened soil is the simplest way of checking if there is excess water in the soil or not. You are supposed to see only a few drops and not a stream of water from the soil.

Check for the soil moisture content daily. If the soil is dry, use a pump spray to moisten the seed starting mix. The moisture content can be maintained by covering the trays with a clear plastic dome. When the seeds start to germinate, remove the covers to allow air to circulate freely.


Humidity also affects the germination period of tomato seeds. When humidity is too low, the air becomes too dry hence increasing the evaporation rate. The seed may not germinate properly in dry soils. They may take a longer time to germinate.

On the other hand, high humidity can also be detrimental to seeds. It causes the soil to become too wet. Damping off together with high humidity encourages the growth of mold and other fungal infections that may affect the seeds and the newly germinated seedlings.

Covering the seed starting trays with a humidity dome trap can help to maintain an optimal humid environment that promotes proper seed germination. It also helps the seeds to sprout faster and increases germination rate and percentage.

Air circulation

Air circulation is also an important factor in the germination of tomato seeds. Seeds need aeration and poor air circulation means that your tomato seeds will not germinate fast. Soil that is too wet can prevent free air circulation, which may result in seed rot.

Keeping the soil loose can also help to improve air circulation. Avoid compacting the soil or the seed starting mix before or after planting the seeds.

Seeds viability

The viability of the seeds also determines the time, percentage, and rate of germination. The number of seeds viable in packaging doesn’t necessarily equal the number of seeds that can germinate. Mishandling and storage can affect the viability of the seeds.

When stored properly in a dry and cool place, tomato seed can stay viable for 4 to 5 years. Humidity is the main factor that shortens the shelf life of tomato seeds. When purchasing the seeds, be sure to check the expiry dates. The seeds should also be stored in a tightly sealed container.

How to germinate tomato seeds faster

Do you want to germinate tomato seeds faster? There are various ways you can use to ensure the seeds germinate fast:

1. Use clean trays or containers

When preparing to germinate your tomato seeds, be sure to use clean trays or containers. Many gardeners consider recycling egg carton trays and yogurt containers among others. Wash them thoroughly using warm soapy water and dry them properly before using.

Dirty containers may harbor pests and diseases that can attack the seeds or the newly germinated seedlings. Ensure the containers have drainage holes before filling them with soil or starting mix.  

2. Use certified seeds

Certified and viable tomato seeds tend to germinate fast.  Use seeds that are certified and approved by a bureau of standards. Tomato seeds have a shelf life of 4 to 5 years, be sure to check the manufacture and expiry dates before purchasing.

3. Germinate the seeds at the right time

For the seeds to sprout faster, you have to sow them at the right time. Germinate the seeds when there is optimum temperature and humidity. The seeds may not germinate fast in extreme temperatures and humidity.

4. Use high-quality seed starting mix

Tomato seeds require a high-quality starting mix to germinate fast. The starting mix should be able to have good drainage, air circulation, moisture, and enough nutrients to feed the newly germinated seedlings. It should also be free from pests and diseases.

5. Sow the seeds at a correct depth

Sowing the seeds at a correct depth ensures there is a fast and even germination rate. Tomato seeds are quite tiny and planting them deeper into the soil can decrease the germination rate and it may take longer for some of the seeding to be seen on the surface.

6. Keep the starting mix moist

Water is an important factor that affects the germination of seeds. The seed starting mix is supposed to be maintained moist for the seeds to germinate fast. You may not see the seedlings if the soil is too wet. The seeds may be affected by mold and other pathogens before sprouting.

7. Improve air circulation

Without air, the seeds cannot germinate. Air is a primary factor that affects the process of germination. For the seeds to germinate fast, the soil must have enough air circulation. The starting mix or soil must be loose enough to allow free air circulation.

8. Provide optimal temperature

The temperature of the starting mix will affect the time, percentage, and rate of germination. The minimum temperature for seed germination is 50 degrees Fahrenheit while the maximum is 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Move the trays or containers to a warmer place when the temperatures are low.

9. Fertilize the soil

Most seed-starting mixes contain low-releasing fertilizer to feed the seedling for several weeks. However, you can supplement it with other organic fertilizers to ensure the seedlings remain healthy. The fertilizer can be mixed with water before watering.

Do tomato seeds need light to germinate?

No, tomato seeds do not require light to germinate. They can germinate best in absolute darkness. However, the light becomes very vital after germination. The sprout plants cannot survive in total darkness, they require light energy in the process of photosynthesis.

Tomatoes grown indoors will tend to have light green leaves. When a similar plant is grown outdoors, it will have large dark green leaves, better branches, and be shorter in height.

Mature tomato plants need more light exposure to thrive. They need more than 11 hours of bright light per day to remain healthy and produce high yields. When planted indoors, the light intensity is determined by the nearness of the plant to the light source.  Plant them near a large window or you can provide artificial lights.



Soil Temperature and Seed Germination – The Pennsylvania State University

TOMATO – Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service

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