Last evening (May 7th), I transplanted the rest of my tomato seedlings into garden bed number three. I have been moving them outside during the day every day since last Friday (May 3rd) to “harden them off,” i.e. get them used to the temperature changes and increased light and wind that they’ll experience in the garden.
I plant my tomatoes in groups of three to five plants of the same variety. I already transplanted the early tomatoes on April 28th. The remaining tomato seedlings include four varieties of paste tomatoes (agro, margherita, viva italia, and health kick) and the slicing tomato that was selected by my mother. They were planted on March 15th.
First, I cut an “X” in the landscape fabric that covers this garden bed. The fabric is there to control weeds, warm the soil in spring, and reduce evaporation.
Then, I fold the flaps of fabric back and under. Update: I no longer fold the flaps under the fabric. Instead, I put them back in place around the tomato plants to reduce the amount of exposed soil that could splash onto the plants (and spread disease) when it rains.
Tomatoes will grow roots along their stems and can be planted deeper than they are in the pot to take advantage of that. It’s useful to do this if your tomato plants are gangly. I dug the hole a few inches deeper than the pot and piled the soil on a tray.
I used the planting label to loosen the soil around the edge of the pot and slid the tomatoes out, upside-down, into my hand. The roots have grown around the inside of the pot until they are somewhat matted. It’s not too bad, but the plants are a little root-bound.
I used my fingers to loosen the roots.
Then I put the seedlings into the hole. You can see how deeply I’ve planted them.
I filled the hole with the soil that I put into the tray, using the trowel to distribute the soil all around the root ball. I put the plant label in front of the tomatoes so that I can evaluate each variety of tomato and decide whether to plant them again in the future.
I watered the newly planted tomatoes using the 18-24-16 soluble fertilizer that I’ve mentioned before. I mixed a tablespoon (15 ml) into two gallons (8 l) of water and used a total of four gallons for all five groups of tomatoes that I transplanted.
I placed water jackets around the seedlings and watered them again. I tried to put the water jacket around the first tomatoes by myself and broke one plant off*, so I got some help placing the remaining four water jackets. We filled the water jackets a few days earlier so that the water could warm up in the sun. It takes about four gallons (16 l) to fill each one.
The water jackets will help protect the plants from wind, temperature changes, and strong sunlight. The red color is supposed to promote production of fruit. The water jackets tend to get leaks after a couple years, but they still work even if two or three of the tubes are empty. Last year, I put repair tubes in some of the tubes that were leaking.
In the group photo, you can see that the early tomatoes (in the cage) have some white blotches on their leaves caused by too much sun too soon. They were too big to fit into a water jacket, but I could have wrapped some clear plastic around the cage to shade them.
*Update: I pushed the broken stem into the soil and it grew.