Thursday, April 3, 2014

Transplanting tomatoes

Now that we have hit the month of April on the calendar, things have to happen for the garden.
Did you note I didn't say"in" the garden?
I'm not sure how your garden is drying up, but mine is a ways from being workable. It's wet and a few inches down, still frozen.
Is yours dry enough?
Grab a handful or soil in your hand, and if it crumbles when you try to ball it up, it's ready to go.
Or it could be, if the temperatures were even a wee bit warmer.
If my soil was dry enough, I would try to get peas in. But it's not, and I won't be.

I'm still aiming for Easter weekend with the peas, as my mom always told me I should.
I suspect though most things will go in a bit later this year, because of the harshness of the winter.
You can't hurry the season, and if you try to get things out in the garden in these cool and wet conditions nothing at all is gained.

It doesn't mean however that there is nothing to do.
Lately I've been seeding indoors like a mad woman.
The priority for early April has been getting the basils and other annual herbs seeded, brassicas (kales, broccoli, cabbage etc), ground cherries, tomatillos and the like before the time comes for the marathon that is transplanting or potting up.

I'll start some of the transplanting next week. The stupid hot peppers like the assorted Ghosts and Carolina Reapers have some nice leaves and are ready to go, as are most of the other peppers and eggplants.

They will all go into 3-4" pots, filled with my soilless mix. I'll put them into the new pots at the same soil level they were at in the smaller cells, and then I will water them in with a nice kelp solution that has been diluted into warm water. They will go under the lights again in my cooler basement, until I can safely transfer them into my unheated hoophouse where they will finish the process of hardening off.

After that it is all about the tomatoes for me.
Tomatoes are super easy to transplant. I'll know they are ready to transplant when they have their first set of true leaves, which is actually the second set of leaves you will see. But if you see that second set of leaves, don't panic. They can sit and grow a bit longer with no harm being done at all. You don't have to drop everything and begin your transplanting. Finish that romantic moment, waxing your floor or whatever else it is you are engaged in. Then transplant.

My experience is that tomatoes like to be transplanted, and I think this is because you can sink that growing stem deeper into the soil every time you transplant.
Mine go into 3 1/2" pots. I nip off the bottom set of leaves that appeared first, and sink my tomato plants into my nice warm soilless mix, covering most of the stem, just the top set of leaves showing.
I water them with my diluted kelp fertilizer, and grow them on at a cooler temperature than I germinated them at. Plants that grow on at cooler temperatures tend to be huskier, stalkier plants.
I'll get them out into my hoophouse in a few weeks time and start to harden them off, which means I will very gradually expose them to the sun's rays through my greenhouse plastic.

Everyday I brush my hands over my tomato plants which is thought to stimulate a growth hormone in them. This too produces a husky tomato plant. And who doesn't just love the smell of tomato leaves? Apparently you can even purchase a perfume that smells like tomato leaves, although for my part I'd rather have the real thing.

If your plants are getting leggy, long and lanky before you can get them out into your garden, transplant them again, sinking the stem deep again. You'll strengthen the root system every time you sink the stem down, as roots will develop along the stem.

I like to fertilize my tomato plants with my kelp solution about once a week as they grow on. The beauty of the kelp is that you can't overdo it, and I believe the benefits are quite tangible.

And there you have it.

The next step will be getting them in the garden, a good 7 weeks off.

1 comment:

Erin Wilson said...

I miss the smell of your greenhouse... :)

Hope you're well, Linda. Miss you too :)