Dana’s Big Gardening Adventure – week four of the tomato experiment

As part of my Big Gardening Adventure where I’m going to reduce my food miles for produce to 0 as often as possible, I’ve chosen three kinds of heirloom tomato seeds to start from seed and then grow using organic means:

• Brandywines
• Aunt Ruby’s German Green’s
• Cherokee Purple

All three of these varieties are supposed to mature within 70 to 75 days so if all goes well, I should have a pretty abundant crop of colourful tomatoes to share by the end of July (the line up starts from the left!).

In the past I’ve written that you should start tomato seedlings indoors no more than 6 weeks prior to transplanting the tomato plants to the garden, but I started mine earlier this year due to the crazy extended winter weather. The general concern with starting seeds too soon is that the young plants can become leggy and weak. To prevent that problem, I’m going to transplant my seedlings into larger pots in enough peat moss to help support the bases. We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, here are my tips for successfully transplanting and growing tomato seedlings. Print this page or bookmark it so that you can come back to this info later in the spring and summer when you need it.

I’ll be testing my theories as the season progresses. Then, I’ll report back on how things worked out when I followed my own advice (wish me luck and, if humiliation ensues, please be kind):

• Before planting tomato seedlings, work a spadeful of compost into each hole. This should be enough fertilizer to feed the plant for the entire season.

• To help new tomato plants to establish themselves in cool spring temperatures, protect the seedlings by cutting the bases from 2L soda bottles. Place a bottle over each seedling until temperatures become warmer.

• Since hot summer weather can lead to dry soil conditions, be prepared to water tomatoes often during hot spells. Ideally the water used to water tomato plants should be ambient temperature (this is where my rain barrel will come in handy!) since cold water may prevent the roots from developing. Likewise, it’s better to water tomatoes at the base of the stem with a watering can than to use a hose that drenches the whole plant.

• When mature, tomatoes ripen to optimum flavor when grown at temperatures between 13°C and 27°C. As a result, tomatoes must be planted so that the fruit will mature when this temperature range is common in your area.

5 Responses to Dana’s Big Gardening Adventure – week four of the tomato experiment

  1. Agita says:

    Hell Dana,
    I decided to make an experiment of my own. I live in a condo, therefore, no garden. But I have a balcony/terrace and planters. So, I decided to grow tomatoes on my balcony. Started seedlings indoors and today they are good size; I have already placed the plants outdoors in the shade for a little bit , but the temperature is still quite cold to keep them outside overnight. I need to transplant them to bigger pots…
    Do you have any suggestion. Especially I am concerned about the nutrients that tomatoes need to enable to produce fruit.
    Regards, and good luck with your tomatoe experiment.
    Agita
    Toronto, Ontario.

  2. Agita,

    You and I are coping with the same weather – my garden is in Maple.

    I found a new organic vegetable bagged soil on the weekend at a big box garden centre. It’s made by Miracle Grow but contains no chemicals and is formulated specifically for vegetables.

    I had been growing my seedlings in peat moss and they were zapped of nutrients just before I transplanted them. I added some pure liquid potassium (the kind you use to grow aquarium plants) and they perked up a bit but good soil is by far an easier and better choice.

    When I transplanted to the garden, I blended my top soil with MooPoo (that’s the brand name) aged manure and water. I think that might be a good thing for you to use when you go to a larger pot as well.

    The other tip is to cut 2L pop bottles and juice bottles in half through the middle and then place the spout end, cap removed) over the seedlings so that they are protected from the wind and cold.

    Keep me posted on your progress and please share any tips you discover, too!

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