Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tomatoes in Transit

The tomato seedlings have been thriving in their seed cells, set in an east-facing window. Being at least three weeks past the average last frost date here in the District of Columbia, it's time to find the seedlings a new home and prepare them for transplanting into the garden.

I planted four varieties: Cherokee Purple, my favorite, Mortgage Lifter, an heirloom yellow cherry tomato named Dr. Carolyn and the classic Italian sauce tomato, Roma.

To remove them from the seed cells, I use a spoon, working around the edges of the plant and plunging deep under the roots. Lift the plant with the entire ball of soil and move to a pot.
Seeds started indoors should be moved to a sunny spot as soon as they sprout. It's hard to get them all the sunlight they crave. Often they grow long and lanky. If they get too "leggy," it's time to think of alternate light sources, or they could flop over and fail.

Tomatoes have a valuable attribute: they will grow roots all along the stem. I choose a tall pot and bury the seedling deep inside--all the way to the bottom--so that it has plenty of buried stem from which to grow new roots.

Fill the new pot with organic potting soil. Better to put the camera down and use your free hand to hold the plant upright and centered while pouring in the new soil.

Tamp the soil down firmly to eliminate air pockets.

I cut labels out of used yogurt containers.

Once they are potted, the plants can be watered in. I added a bit of fish emulsion to give them a nice first meal in their new homes. Now I'll start them "hardening off," or exposing them to the outdoors a little more each day until they are fully acclimated. Then they can go in the ground and start making tomatoes.

Hard to believe summer is almost here already.


Great Big Veg Challenge said...

We are buying our tomato plants this morning at the garden centre in Kensington. Freddie saw your plants and reminded us...
Hope you are all well
Charlotte and Freddie

Ed Bruske said...

Charlotte, I see you and Freddie have been doing some amazing things with tomatoes. We are looking forward to a great season with some interesting varieties. We're still working our way through the pickled green tomatoes and green tomato chutney we made last year. Boy, are they good.