How many tomato seeds per hole?

Home gardeners always face a difficult time deciding which to save or which to separate when growing two or more tomato seedlings from one hole. Because a tomato plant bears about 10 to 20 pounds of fruit in its lifetime. However, it is not wise to keep both plants in the same hole as growth of both plants as well as yield will be disturbed.

Many gardeners grow tomatoes in the backyard because they are relatively easy to grow in a small space. But, growing tomatoes can be difficult for beginners as they have to decide on seed selection, soil preparation, and sowing methods such as how many tomato seeds to sow in each hole.

Tomato seeds sowing time

Fresh tomatoes are produced year-round in the United States except in winter. Home gardeners grow tomatoes nationwide during the summer months. Tomatoes grow from October to June, but the peak season varies based on states from April to May and November to January. Tomatoes should sow according to the USDA plant hardiness zone map. Late February to mid-April is the best time to sow tomato seeds. Tomatoes need full sunlight and grow best at 21 to 24 degrees Celsius.

If you sow tomato seeds before the proper season, then you may need to sow more than two seeds per hole. because many seeds will not germinate due to a lack of favorable environmental conditions for germination.

Selection of tomato seeds variety

Hybrid and delicious heirloom (open-pollinated tomatoes) tomato varieties are available. You can collect both seeds from local seed stores. However, gardeners can save seeds from heirloom varieties. Heirloom varieties are sturdy and have more flexibility than hybrid varieties. Tomato fruit set time can range from 55 to 90 days, based on the varieties. Home gardeners should consider yield, fruit set time, disease resistance, and land condition while selecting cultivars.

Germination test

You can determine how many seeds to plant in a hole by testing the germination rate of the tomato seeds. All plants have their seed germination rate. The federal standard for tomato seed germination is about 75%. 75% means if you sow 100 seeds, 75 will grow. You can determine the number of seeds by looking at the germination rate of the supplied seed packet. If you are sowing your preserved heirloom seeds, be sure to test the germination rate of the seeds. You can put 100 seeds on a wet paper napkin and see how many germinate.

The germination rate of hybrid seeds is more compared to heirloom seeds. Therefore, if you sow heirloom tomato seeds, then you may need to sow more than two seeds per hole.

Using potting soil or soilless seed mix

To sow tomato seeds, you can use potting soil or soilless seed mix purchased from the market. You must check the packet to ensure the soil or starter mix is sterile. Using regular garden soil would not be recommended for beginners as garden soil contains pathogens that are potentially harmful to plants.

Sowing tomato seeds per hole

Now, you know how to put two seeds per hole, but how deep should you sow the seeds in the hole? When sowing tomato seeds, you must sow the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep into the soil. Then, sprinkle the potting mix over the seeds.

Tomato seeds usually germinate in 5-10 days. If your tomato seeds are sown too deep, they often won’t germinate because they won’t get enough energy to grow. In some cases, tomato seeds rot deep in the soil. Even if the seedling grows, it is weak.

Seeds that sow too deeply will not have enough energy to germinate through the surface. Do not sow seeds less than 1/4 inch or spread seeds over the soil. If you sow the seeds less than 1/4 inch deep, the seeds will dry out. You may place the seeds on the surface of the mix and sprinkle 1/4 inch of soil over the seeds. Thus, sowing at the correct depth is determined. Then, sprinkle water gently over the soil to keep the seeds moist.

Seed tray preparation

Removal of extra seedlings

It is better to thin the seedlings when growing two seedlings from one hole. However, it must be determined by your needs for seedlings.

If you want only one seedling per hole, thin the other seedling from the hole with scissors. This will give the remaining plant roots room to develop properly. One of the most difficult tasks for gardeners is deciding which plants to save and which to remove. An easy way is to keep healthy plants and cut back excess plants at the soil line when the first true leaves appear.

First set of true leaves
Second set of true leaves
Removing excess plants

Your tomato seedlings will produce their first true leaves about 10-14 days after germination. True leaves grow next to the cotyledons. It is time to transplant or thin the seedlings when they have a second set of true leaves.

But, if you want to keep all germinated seedlings then you should separate that seedling. You can keep them as a backup if your other tomato plants die. Besides, you could give away to family, friends, and neighbors.

You will separate the seedlings when your seedlings have developed a few true leaves. If seedlings are separated before true leaves are formed, severe damage to young tender roots, stems, or cotyledon leaves can occur.

Gently remove the tomato plants from the hole, then carefully loosen them from the roots using a table knife. Tomato seedlings should be separated by leaves or roots. Seedlings cannot be separated by holding the stem. Seedlings can be easily damaged by this. Then plant the seedlings in another container.


  • Never pull seedlings apart by hand.
  • Water the seedlings as they grow with a small watering can. Water in such a way that the seedling stem is not bent or damaged.


Proper sowing and care of tomato seedlings can ensure a good yield.  Ideal seedling production could be possible by following the steps mentioned above. Now that you have all the steps and tips for starting tomatoes from seed, you can grow seedlings with confidence.

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