March is here, and it’s a great time to plant tomato seeds. If you’re looking to include unique heirloom varieties in your garden, starting from seeds can be a convenient option. Diane Matarangas, the tomato expert of Penny Lane Farm, shared how she starts her special heirloom varieties from seeds. You’ll need seed-starting pots (preferable biodegradable), your favorite variety of tomato seeds, potting soil and seed-starting mix. 


Diane makes her own seed-starting mix with equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. 


Step 1: Fill one-fourth of your seed-starting pot with good organic potting soil. 


Step 2: Fill two-fourths of your pot with seed-starting mix. 


Step 3: Place two to three seeds in the pot, water thoroughly and let drain. This creates a moist environment where seeds can bloom. 


Step 4: Lightly cover your seeds with seed-starting mix. Use just enough to cover the seeds. 


Step 5: Gently water and cover with plastic wrap. This will keep the soil moist and create a prime environment for germination. Remove the plastic wrap once seeds start to germinate. 


Tip: Diane waters with a turkey baster until seedlings are three to four weeks old. 


It’s important to keep your planted seeds out of the cold. Diane recommends keeping them in a kitchen window. Seedlings benefit from air circulation, so place them outside in dappled shade for a few hours a day. 


Tip: Each time you transplant a tomato plant, replant it in a deeper hole. You can even remove the lower leaves to accommodate a deeper hole. 

Diane, known as the “Tomato Mama” at local farmers markets, gave this seed planting demonstration at Slow Food San Benito Bounty’s 2014 Seed and Plant Exchange. Some of her more than 100 special heirloom varieties include Brandywine Pink, Paul Robeson, Azoyaka and Pink Berkeley Tie-dye. Diane is also a member of San Benito Bounty.  


To learn more about Penny Lane Farm, visit To learn more about San Benito Bounty visit