In January I planted my tomato seeds for my Spring/Summer garden. (What’s in the Greenhouse-Seedlings post). In February, after the seedlings grew a set or two of true leaves, I transplanted them into small foam cups. (What’s I the greenhouse- you win some you lose some) I have 179 tomato plants. These young seedlings had lived a sheltered and pampered life in the greenhouse. To make it in the “real world” of the garden, they needed a transition period in the garden. Each day the plants were gradually exposed to the wind, sun, and rain. Without this gradual exposure to the elements, you would find them limp and withered the next day. Plants can even get sun and windburned. This transition process is called hardening off. It is best to begin this process one to two weeks before you plan on transplanting them into the garden.
The first day, I brought the plants outside in a sheltered spot and left them there for a few hours. Then I returned them to the greenhouse. Each day I gradually increased the time they spent outside by 1-2 hours before returning them to the greenhouse each night. At the end of the week the plants were able to stay outside all day and night as long as the temperatures did not drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They were ready for planting in the garden.
I am planting 8 different varieties. I am keeping records of which plants have grown the biggest so far. The Rutgers, Beefsteak, Bonnie’s Best and Brandywine are inches taller than the Moneymakers, Creole, Homestead, and Floradade. I will continue keeping records. I want to know which ones produce first, have the largest yield, and best flavor.
Today, I planted 32 tomato plants (8 varieties of tomatoes-4 plants of each variety) into two raised garden beds that measure 4 feet wide by 16 feet long. I planted 2 plants of each variety in each bed. In one bed I will be tying the plants to a hog panel and allowing all branches and suckers to grow. In the other bed, I will be attaching them to strings and breaking off most of the suckers. I will keep records to see which methods works best for me.
Once I decided where each plant was going to be planted, I dug a hole and placed a tablespoon of organic fertilizer and a tablespoon of Epsom salt into the hole. I mixed it into the soil at the bottom of the hole. Then I removed the plant from the cup and placed it into the hole. It is a good idea to plant tomato plants deeper than they come in the pot, so they are able to develop roots all along their stems which makes a stronger plant. I then filled in the hole with the soil that I had dug out of the hole. Lastly, I watered the plants with rain water from my rain barrels. This is my first year using these Aqua Cones. I like knowing how much water I have given to each plant and the fact that the water is directed to the roots instead of the top layer of the garden. Hopefully, with this method I will have less weeds also. Once again, I will observe and keep records.
Now it’s time to share the other 147 plants with friends and neighbors.