We grow Striped Stuffer beefsteak tomatoes every year! This versatile fruit tastes great and gives a plentiful harvest throughout the season.
Beefsteak tomatoes are good to eat on their own, chopped up in salads, stuffed with fillings, or cooked in the oven or barbecue.
Striped Stuffer (Solanum Lycopersicum) is one of the more popular beefsteak tomatoes to grow at home. This article shows you how to start growing beefsteak tomatoes from seed easily.
UPDATE 1: Photo below was taken 28 May and shows beefsteak tomatoes beginning to form on one of our tomato plants started from seed in February this year.
UPDATE 2: Photo of three beautifully red Striped Stuffer beefsteak tomatoes taken 7 July.
- Why do we grow beefsteak tomatoes
- What you need to start beefsteak tomatoes from seed
- Start beefsteak tomatoes from seeds – step by step
- Care for the germinating seeds as well as the first and true leaves
- The first transplant into separate pots
- Beefsteaks can be vigorous growers
- Prepare to move tomato plants outdoors
- Harden off the tomato plants
- Caring for your beefsteak tomato plants
Why do we grow beefsteak tomatoes
Tomatoes are a staple in many fruit and vegetable gardens. And there are numerous varieties to choose between, coming in all different shapes and sizes.
Cherry tomatoes are, for example, a perfect snack or green salad ingredient with their bright and fruity flavors. And this is true for a wide variety of tomatoes that are eaten fresh during summer when the natural sun sweetens the taste and aroma.
This is also true for Beefsteak tomatoes like the Striped Stuffer. Beefsteaks can be eaten fresh, thinly sliced, and served with mozzarella cheese, olive oil, or capers. Or why not a tapenade made from olives or a salsa verde?
But beefsteaks shine when cooked to allow the sweetness of the tomato to mix with whatever filling or sauce you have prepared.
And this – for us – is why beefsteaks are a must to grow in any garden.
What you need to start beefsteak tomatoes from seed
Beefsteaks can be grown in any grow bag, pot, or container. But when you pay attention to a few basic details, you will be rewarded with a richer harvest for the growing season.
1. Start with quality seeds
Quality does make a difference when it comes to the seeds you plant.
And do not confuse quality with expensive.
Instead, quality refers to how the seeds have been stored, handled, and ultimately produced.
You should be fine if you buy your seeds from your local garden center.
But if you, for some reason, decide to use the leftover seeds from last year or an unknown source – do yourself a favor and pre-germinate the seeds.
This additional step is a great way to use old seeds while ensuring you only plant viable seeds that germinate.
We always have seeds leftover from the previous year. And we never throw away seeds. So yes, we pre-germinate lots of seeds every season.
2. Use a good quality potting soil mix
These days many popular seed starter mixes are, in fact, soilless.
We do not add a lot of Perlite, usually between 5-10 percent. Perlite helps the potting mix drain while retaining a good level of moisture.
You want the potting mix to be moist but not wet. Perlite is helpful when it is easy to water a bit too freely.
3. A pot that helps with moisture control
Use pots or seed starter systems that are suited to helping you control the level of moisture.
For example, we grow most herbs in plastic starter pots and use plastic wrap to help retain moisture for seeds planted on the surface, like basil, Thai basil, thyme, and oregano.
Plastic starter pots also work for herbs, including sage, coriander/cilantro, arugula/rocket, and other types of lettuce and leafy greens.
But we prefer to use seed starter trays with plastic domes for tomatoes.
Why? Well, it’s a matter of convenience.
Seed starter trays with domes help with moisture and temperature control and can easily be moved around as needed. And for tomatoes and chilies, and peppers, we have learned that controlling these two factors lead to a high germination rate and vigorous seedlings.
4. Provide plenty of light and warmth
When you start seeds indoors early in the year, you become responsible for light and temperature.
Waiting for a few more months, mother nature will provide both for free. But when planting early, it does become your responsibility.
You must understand that light and warmth are two different things.
A lamp generating a lot of heat is not the solution.
Instead, you want a grow light that generates artificial light but no heat. In addition, you want a heat mat or another source that creates heat from below.
Yes, you want the potting soil mix to warm up.
Do not worry if you do not have a heat mat. Placing pots on top of a refrigerator or another electrical appliance is a well known trick to give seeds that bit of extra heat that is needed for good germination.
When seeds germinate, you are looking for a temperature between 22-25 Celsius / 72-77 Fahrenheit. As the first leaves sprout, you should scale the temperature back to 18-20 Celsius / 64-68 Fahrenheit to avoid growing leggy and spindly seedlings.
But do not micromanage your pots. Avoid doing ten small changes per day in anticipation of “something”.
Place your pots in the best available environment.
Now observe and be a bit patient. Keep an eye on moisture levels and temperature over a couple of days.
If something is not right, take immediate action. Otherwise, be patient and only make small changes if needed.
In a perfect world you plant your beefsteak tomato seeds, water once a day and nothing more. Be patient and trust the process.
If you find it hard to wait for the first leaves to sprout, you may want to try pre-germinating your seeds using a paper towel. When you pre-germinate seeds, you benefit from a more visual germination process, and there is no need to wonder what goes on below the surface.
Start beefsteak tomatoes from seeds – step by step
- Fill pots with a potting soil mix that drains well.
- Bottom water the pots by placing them in a water bath.
- Remove pots from the water bath when they have absorbed enough water (up to 15 minutes).
- Let the pots drain off any excess water.
- Place pots back in a container that is now emptied of water.
- Use a wooden stick or instrument to make holes for seeds in pots (2 per pot).
- Plant seeds using a toothpick and water.
- Cover pots with a thin layer of potting mix.
- Spray soil with water.
- Cover pots with a plastic dome (plastic wrap) and place them in a warm and bright location.
Care for the germinating seeds as well as the first and true leaves
Beefsteak tomato seeds take 5-15 days to germinate depending on temperature, potting soil mix, light, and watering.
As seeds germinate and you see the first leaves, you should move your young plants or seedlings to a cooler growing environment. Aim for 18-20 Celsius / 64-68 Fahrenheit for seedlings to grow robust and compact.
Conservatories and greenhouses get very hot even when there is a relatively low level of light (few hours and/or low intensity). Placing tomato or chili seedlings in a low light and high temperature growing environment will result in weak, spindly and leggy seedlings.
Keep seedlings watered, and make sure to keep potting soil mix moist.
The first transplant into separate pots
When you see four true leaves, it is time to transplant the seedlings into separate pots measuring approximately 10 cm / 4 inches.
Take care to plant the young seedling deeper than it was growing. The seedling will grow new roots from the stem, and planting the seedling deeper will give you a more robust plant.
Fill pots with standard vegetable garden soil, as the young plant needs nutrients to grow.
There is, however, no need to feed the young plants liquid nutrients at this stage. But make sure to give plenty of water and light to help roots get established, and new roots form.
The new roots do not grow from the fuzzy hairs, or trichomes, that you see along the stem of the tomato plant. But if you look even closer you will also see small bumps along the stem. And these small bumps are were the new roots will form when tomato seedlings are planted deep.
Beefsteaks can be vigorous growers
Beefsteak tomatoes, like the “Striped Stuffer”, grow into large plants.
As your young plant develops, this is also why you may need to transplant the growing tomato plant more than one time. Choose a pot measuring 20 cm / 8 inches across and top it up with fresh soil.
Continue to give plenty of water and light.
Prepare to move tomato plants outdoors
When there is no longer any risk of frost, it is time to move the developing tomato plants outdoors.
This is also when the tomato plants are transplanted one last time. We grow all our beefsteak tomatoes in DIY grow bags, but you can plant them directly in the ground.
The “Striped Stuffer” beefsteak tomato is an indeterminate variety and will grow to at least 2 meters / 7 feet tall.
If you use grow bags, containers, or pots, you need a minimum soil volume of 20 liters / 5 US gallons / 4.4 Imperial gallons for the indeterminate beefsteak tomato plant to produce well.
We use DIY medium-sized grow bags (27 liters / 7 US gallons / 6 Imperial gallons) for our indeterminate tomato plants.
Harden off the tomato plants
You can start to harden off your tomato plants by moving them outdoors for one or two hours per day.
Start slowly and avoid exposing your tomato plants to direct sunlight during the first couple of days.
Increase the hours spent outdoors over the next week to 10 days before moving your plant outdoors permanently.
Caring for your beefsteak tomato plants
Your tomato plants want full sun, water, and nutrients throughout the growing season.
Help your tomato plants grow by pinching side shoots and providing a proper support structure as the plant grows and develops.
Using liquid fertilizers, it is always better to start slow. If unsure, start with half the recommended dosage and adjust as needed.
Mulching with garden refuse, such as grass clippings, is a great way to add nutrients while helping the soil to retain moisture.
We do recommend using aged compost or fertilizer for tomatoes for optimal harvest.
Also, keep plants 50 cm / 20 inches apart to ensure proper air circulation. Plants cramped together are more likely to attract pests, fungi, and mildew.
If you spot leaves infected with, for example, leaf miners, your first instinct should be to remove and dispose of the leaves. Do not put them in your compost.
Read Composting tips for beginners for more useful tips and advice on how you too can start a compost at home.
Next, separate infected plants from your other plants and vegetable gardens. This is another advantage of growing plants like tomatoes in grow bags.
If the problem persists, treat the plant with an organic pesticide/insecticide like Neem oil.
We do not use non-organic pesticides/insecticides why we are unable to recommend any products.
NC State Extension