Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Transplanting Tomato Plants Into The Garden

Let's face it, starting seeds indoors is not an easy project. Although I have done it in the past, I didn't have the time this year or for the last five years, for that matter. So I, and a large majority of gardeners, will purchase plants to transplant into their gardens. This post will deal with transplanting tomatoes.

Here are two tomato plants I purchased at Lowe's on sale in late April at 2/$3.00. They are Bonnie Plants brand. These are both cherry/grape size tomatoes that I am planting in the top of my two potato towers. 

To reiterate, I filled the potato towers with shredded autumn leaves that spent the winter atop my square foot garden plot. In early March I started to compost kitchen wasted into the pile of leaves. The leaves were partially composted when I added them to my square foot plot. The leaves that weren't used in the plot were placed directly into two towers made from wire fence material with cloth lining the towers to contain the leaves and potato plants. I also drove 1/2"/12mm lengths of rebar into the ground to stabilize the towers. The towers were planted with potato seeds in layers  6"/ 15cm apart with the last layer 12"/30cm thick atop the last layer of potatoes. That last 12"/30cm will be where the cherry/grape tomatoes will grow.

Here is the top of the first tower I constructed. I created a well in the center of the shredded leaves and filled the well with some soil mix from last years hanging pots.

Remove all the last years plant remains and brake up any clumps of soil mix before placing the mix into the top of the tower.
Create a new well in the soil mix in which to place the tomato plant. One plant per tower.

Take a tomato plant in hand and remove it from its pot. The Bonnie Plants are in peat pots with a plastic label around the top. I cut off the label and removed the peat pot.

Bonnie Plants advertises the peat pots will decompose and are therefore more ecologically sound. Maybe so, however, the roots were pot-bound, as you can see in the above photograph. Leaving the roots in this condition will keep the roots growing in a circular pattern. That won't be good for the plant. That is why I remove the peat pots.

The roots need to be either unwound or if they are so intertwined, cut. New roots will grow once the plant is in its new soil.

Next I pinch off most of the lower branches of the plant. The reason is to place the plant deeper into the soil. Sunlight and air movement (read breeze here) will dry out the soil surface. Planting deeper allows the roots to keep moist because they are not near the surface of the soil that is likely to vary in moisture content.

Tomato plants are special when it comes to roots. All those hairy looking fibers growing straight out from the stem will become roots. The deeply planted stem will grow more roots from those hairy looking fibers allowing the plant to take in more moisture and with it, nutrients. Nutrients are good for plants as well as people.

By pinching off the lower stems I will plant the tomato at least 2"/50mm deeper.

Once the tomato is where you want it, fill in the depression with more planting mixture. Then it is important to water each and every transplant. Make sure the soil is moist through and through by burrowing down with your finger.

Clean up, for you are finished. Water each plant 1gal/3.78l per week, keep the weeds pulled and wait for those delicious tomatoes to turn red or yellow or striped or black ...

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

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