Growing tomato plants from seed can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and they are relatively easily to grow. Only a few seeds from a packet are required to produce enough tomatoes to feed a family of four. If stored properly these seeds will remain viable for 4 to 5 years, so one packet of seed can provide you with tomato plants for a long time.

black krim - Illustration by Helen Krayenhoff

In coastal California, tomato seedlings can be started indoors in a bright location during March or April, and should be ready to transplant into the garden after 5 to 7 weeks. Plant these tomato seedlings out in the garden during April or May. Provide them with a wind-protected warm sunny spot for best results.

In the Bay Area

Growing tomatoes in the Bay Area can be tricky. Lack of heat in combination with summer fog is not ideal for growing many varieties. Most varieties require a lot of sunlight and heat until they will bear fruit. Seed packages often list sunlight requirements as days to maturity. By selecting early maturing varieties (70 days or less) you are likely to end up with more fruit. The following varieties tend to perform well in the Bay Area and are quite tasty:

Sun Gold: We have found that this golden yellow cherry has an unfair advantage in taste comparisons due to its high sugar content. Give it plenty of room to grow! 

Japanese Trifele: A beautiful purple pear-shaped tomato. It is less prone to cracking and bruising than other tomato varieties. Incredibly rich flavor. Continues late into the season.

Green Zebra: This is fast becoming a customer favorite, with the high productivity of yellow and green marbled, mid-sized fruits that hold up well after harvest. Excellent classic flavor. 

Black Krim: An heirloom tomato originating from Ukraine. The plant is indeterminate, bearing 8 ounce flattened globe fruits that are dark reddish-purple to black with green/brown shoulders.