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Blog,  Spring,  Successful Garden

How to Make Sure Your Tomato Plants Have the Best Start Ever

You won’t believe this, but young tomato plants love to be transplanted!

Don’t be afraid! Get your trowel and follow me to your garden plot. I’m gonna show you how to give your plants the best start you can possibly give them.

Tomato Plants in Pots

Don’t have a plot? That’s ok too. Growing veggies in pots on a patio is a great choice for loads of tomatoes. Follow these instructions and you’ll be successful too. You will want to purchase a large pot and garden soil first. I’m  going to tell you the amendments I use, so read ahead, then compare with the label on your bag of soil, and decide if your soil will need the additional nutrients.  

Grow Your Own Seedlings

A young tomato plant that is ready for the garden is already somewhere between two and three months old. Growing your own babies is very rewarding. Here in Florida, seeds are planted indoors during the early part of January. They need a long head start in order to beat the heat of summer. Please don’t plant seeds later than early February. The plants won’t produce flowers in the sweltering heat of a sub-tropical climate. If you started your tomatoes from seeds they are ready to be transplanted when they are nine to twelve weeks old. To learn how to start tomatoes from seeds and how to grow them to this point, read this post:https://seasonsofdevotion.com/start-your-tomatoes/

Buy Your Seedlings

If you purchase plants from a nursery, I recommend buying plants that are no more than nine inches tall. The reason for getting a “smaller” plant is that, if the plant is older and taller, it may already be in the mode to put energy into growing tomatoes. So, I recommend plants that do not have tomatoes. Flowers are ok-you will pinch those off so your plant can put more energy acclimating to its new home. 

How to Plant a Tomato Plant Step-by-step

  • Prepare your soil at least one week in advance of planting the young plants. To see how to prepare a rich garden soil, read this post:https://seasonsofdevotion.com/prepare-your-soil/
  • Dig a narrow hole in the soil,  deep enough to bury most of the stem so that the first true leaves will be just above the soil line.
  • Mix 2 tbs. Fertilizer into the bottom of the hole. For my own mixture, see note below.
  • Soak the bottom and walls of the hole with a solution of Garden Friendly Fungicide, following the guide on the bottle (see note below)
  • Gently pinch off bottom leaves of the plant, leaving about half the height of the plant just bare stem. 
  • Put the tomato plant into the hole you prepared-deep enough to bury the part of the stem you just worked on. 
  • Gently fill the hole in around the stem.
  • Soak the surface and the exposed plant with Garden Friendly Fungicide         
  • Follow up with a gentle soaking spray or sprinkler until the soil is moist below the surface.
  • You will need to monitor the moisture level of your new garden bed of tomatoes, keeping the soil moist, not too dry nor too wet.Every soil type is different, so keep a record of how often you need to water to ensure that the plant does not completely dry out nor remain soggy. 
  • At this point, it’s a good idea to put a tomato cage over the top of your little plant. Doing so now will prevent damage to the roots later when the plant is big. Alternately, you can use stakes and string to tie the plant up the stake as it grows.  
  • Continue to spray the plants and soak the soil with the recommended mixture of fungicide at least once every two weeks. Once a week is ok, especially if your soil has a history of having plants that have a disease.

Monitor and Wait

That’s all there is to it! Watch them! The plants will grow slowly at first and then start growing quickly. If your soil has been enriched naturally, the plants will start to grow rapidly after two weeks or so

My personal mixture of garden amendments

You know, I could tell you that my mixture will guarantee this or that, but to be honest, every soil is different-even neighbors can have different needs. After years of observing my own challenges and reading the results of an extensive soil test, I found that my soil needed magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Although I build my soil every year with manure and oak leaves, I still needed extra nitrogen, so I added blood meal and worm castings to a mixture of bone meal, Epsom salts, and some nitrogen boosting products-bone meal and worm castings.  

I mixed unmeasured amounts into a small pail, “guestimating” how much of each ammendment to mix in, based on the problems I had been having. This mixture is what I put into the bottom of each hole before placing the seedling in.

Booster for Healthy Plants

Note: This product was a total game changer in the health of my plants. It’s like giving them a dose of acidolphilus-that’s the closest way I can describe what it’s doing. It gives the plant an added ability to fight disease. For information about  Garden Friendly Fungicide read: http://www.apsnet.org/meetings/Documents/2012_Meeting_Abstracts/aps12abP125.htm

The brand I use is Southern Ag Garden Friendly fungicide. I purchased mine from a local garden and plant shop: It is about $20 but the bottle will last a long time because it is so concentrated. 

Feel free to contact me in the Contact Debbie box below. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have. I’ld love to hear about your tomato adventures too!

Now go make some tomato plants happy!

Lots of love,

Debbie

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