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In the Beginning

Planting Out

Part 7 of 8

Your plants are hardened off, the sun is shining and you’re ready to plant your tomato seedlings into the garden. First things first, please check with your local extension office to be sure it’s past the average frost date for your area, and a good recommendation is to have your soil tested ahead of time.

The amendments I will discuss are general and work well for most average soils, raised beds or containers, but you may need more or less of certain nutrients based on your soil test results. In each planting hole I add the following: ¼ cup of an organic, slow release, granular fertilizer like Tomatotone or Dr. Earth’s Homegrown; ¼ cup bonemeal (This will help prevent blossom end rot, promote early blooms, and feed the forming first fruits.); and one tablespoon of epsom salt. (This helps bring nutrients into the plant’s cells.)

The time of day in which you choose to plant your seedlings can make a difference when it comes to transplant shock. If you plant in the heat of the day, full sun can stress a transplant out quite a bit. Planting in the early evening gives your plant a cooler part of the day to relax and get used to it’s new surroundings. Tomatoes open their pores (stomata) once it is dark and begin a cycle called “transpiration”, which brings nutrients up from the soil into the plant cells. If your seedlings can have a chance to go through one cycle of transpiration before they are first subjected to full sun in a new spot, they will be acclimated at a much better pace.

As I have taught with each article since seed starting, tomatoes need healthy roots to develop strong plants, and they can grow roots along their stems if planted deeply. The same holds true at planting out time. If your stems have grown a bit “reachy” since their last pot up, you can bury the stems in a couple of different ways. The first is by digging a very deep planting hole, which can prove very frustrating if the stem is very long. To take away some of the frustration, a fence post auger or similar device attached to the end of an electric drill can be an easier way to dig a deep hole. Place the nutrients mentioned above into the hole, mix in a bit of compost to lighten the density of the soil, add the plant and backfill the hole making sure to water it in well after it has been planted.

The second way of accounting for longer stems is by planting your seedling sideways in a trench, bending the tip of it upward at a 90 degree angle, amendments are added in the same way as the deep hole method. This method is easier since you don’t have to dig as deep of a hole, but please remember where you trenched the stem when it comes time to adding a stake or other plant support- you don’t want to damage the roots.

Newly planted seedlings should be watered right away with a good amount to soak in deep, and will need watering a little more frequently until the root system develops. Mulching with wood chips, straw, or non- chemically treated grass clippings is a good way to help retain moisture as well as protect the roots from over-heating.

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