Thursday, May 17, 2012

Planting Tomatoes, and the Simple Secrets Thereof

Today I am planting a few final additions to the garden, and hopefully we'll get the pool cleaned out and filling up. Summer is coming on with a quickness! I decided to take a lot of pictures to document the fairly simple steps of transplanting a tomato plant. Fresh tomatoes are especially delicious during the summer, and even more so if you grow them yourself. First I needed to clear out a patch of garden space to put one of the plants.

Removing those pesky weeds was not a problem, and provided the chickens with a nice morning snack. Even though most of our garden space was recently tilled, I worked the soil over again in the two spots I was going to put the plants. Once I was ready to actually dig a hole and plant the tomatoes, it was time to prep the tomato plants by removing their lower leaves. This is one of the simple secrets of having successful tomato plants; removing the lower branches and leaves from your seeding and planting it deeper in the ground. Observe:
The two starts that I planted were given to my mother for Mother's Day by a family friend who also has quite the green thumb, so they were very healthy. It may seem kind of wrong to damage your lovely and tender young plants, but the extra six inches of depth in planting will help the fledgling vine to establish strong roots. As you remove the plant from it's starter pot, you'll want to break up the roots. Such a strong and healthy plant in a small container is going to start getting bound roots, like this:
You don't want to destroy the root ball, that would kill the plant, but rather gently try to just pull the bottom corners apart a little, or make a small tear on several on the sides, like so:
This will help the roots spread out and into the ground. You are now ready to place the plant into the hole you've dug to receive it. The dirt that you dug out of the planting spot should be ample enough to pile back in on top of your new addition. Pack the dirt down firmly - you want your plant to feel like it's roots are tucked in and safe. It is also general practice to build a well around your plants, like this:

This is to retain water close to the plant. The final step is to water your new plants in. I am a firm believer in giving your young plants a big drink as soon as you've got them in the ground. Some gardeners will just wait until their normal watering time, but I like to ease any transplant shock by thoroughly soaking the newly planted seedling. Water them down once, so that the water is standing a little in their well, like in the pictures above. Then wait for that water to all drain down into the soil and fill the well again. This water will drain much more slowly and really get the ground around your plant saturated.

So there you go, that was my morning. Maybe most of you out there are pretty familiar with planting and gardening, and if so I am sure this post seems pretty basic. Still, I often meet people that have been growing a little bit for years, and who aren't familiar with removing the lower leaves of young tomato starts before planting them. Now, get out there and grow some stuff, internet surfers!

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