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Growing Tomatoes Part 2 - Site Preparation and Transplanting

April 20, 2012

Proper site preparation and transplanting can sometimes be difficult. It is important that the site your tomatoes will be transplanted to be well prepared so your tomatoes can thrive once moved. Transplanting should be done carefully and thoroughly.

What you should know about transplanting tomatoes:

Site Preparation for Planting Tomatoes:

Your tomatoes are ready for transplanting to a prepared site in the tomato garden as soon as all danger of frost has passed. Tomatoes thrive in any reasonably good, well drained tomato garden soil receiving full sun. You should test the soil preferably in the fall if possible. The pH should be adjusted to within the range of 5.5 to 6.5. The fall is also a good time for deep spading or plowing to a depth of 8” to 12”, and the soil should be enriched by adding compost, leaf mold, or peat moss as needed.
When early spring hits, till or spade the surface again, and rake to break up clods and remove stones. Fertilize your soil as recommended on your tomato soil test result form. Manure should be used very cautiously if even at all because excessive nitrogen tends to cause tomato plants to produce an overabundance of foliage rather than fruit. It may be more beneficial to use a fertilizer with a high phosphorus and potash analysis and low in nitrogen, such as 5-10-10. The addition of organic matter along with a dressing of superphosphate should be sufficient if the soil is already fairly rich. Additional side-dressing fertilizers may be necessary on lighter, sandy soils at 14-21 day intervals during the tomato growing season.

In larger tomato plantings, rows of staked tomatoes should be 30” to 42” apart and plant spacings in the row at 24” to 30”. When tomatoes cannot be staked, row spacing of 6 ft. and tomato plant spacing of 4 ft. in the row are needed for adequate air movement and tomato plant development. Staking is generally the preferred method of growing tomatoes where space is limited. Staked tomatoes tend to yield a much higher proportion of clean and undamaged fruits. Wooden stakes or wire cages are good supports for tomato plants. Tomato supports should be 40” to 72” tall, using the shorter for “determinate” tomato varieties and the taller for the “indeterminate” tomato varieties.

“Determinate” tomato varieties, also known as “bush” tomato varieties, are those that reach a certain tomato plant height and then stop growing. Most of the fruit is borne over a 4 to 6 week period. “Indeterminate” tomato varieties continue to grow and flower throughout the tomato gardening season. These tomato plants have less mature fruits at any one time. “Indeterminate Short Internode (ISI)” tomato varieties combine the controlled tomato growth habit of a “determinate” tomato variety with the unlimited tomato production potential of an “indeterminate” tomato variety.

Transplanting Tomatoes:

When you are transplanting hardened off tomato plants to the tomato garden, try to choose a cloudy, wind free day or plant the tomatoes in the late afternoon. Whether the danger of frost has passed or not is up to you to judge. Emergency protection devices, such as plastic jugs with the bottoms removed or our “Kozy Coats” plant protectors, can help if a late frost occurs. Place the plant protector over your tomato plants the evening before a frost is predicted, being careful not to let foliage touch the plastic. Then remove the plant protector the next morning.

Water your tomato plants thoroughly approximately a half hour prior to tomato planting, using a full-strength solution of water-soluble fertilizer. Always make sure the holes are large enough to accommodate all the tomato roots without crowding. Your tomato plants should be set in deeper than they were originally in the tomato containers. Tomato plants may be planted down to the first leaves because they root freely from any portion of the tomato stems buried beneath the soil. Even if some of your tomato plants have become leggy, dig out furrows and lay in the tomato plants, burying excessively tall stems. Partially fill the hole with soil to approximately within 3”of the surface. Water thoroughly, being careful to settle soil around roots, eliminating air pockets. Finish filling the hole with proper soil and firm the soil around the tomato stem.

Jung Seeds provides all the vegetable seeds and gardening supplies you need to start and continue growing and transplanting tomatoes at home. Shop our wide variety of tomato seeds, vegetable gardening supplies, and more online today.

For more information about growing tomatoes, continue to Growing Tomatoes Part 3 – Culture, Diseases and Pests, and Preserving.

April 20, 2012

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