Updated: May 17, 2020
Remember my post back from February? I told you that I would be back to let you know how things are growing. Who knew back in February that the next month would change our lives and change the world as we knew it, and that toilet paper would become the new currency. Okay, well it hasn't gotten that bad, but March and April are really a blur for me, I don't know about you. These past couple of months have changed the way I do certain things, but for the most part life hasn't been too disrupted because of the virus. I hope you are all healthy and are staying well. My family and I have always been severe introverts, so staying at home away from people isn't much of a sacrifice. Needless to say, life around us has changed, and somehow it is now May, so let's get ready for summer.
Today I was able to get out into the garden to check on my seedlings. They seemed to be doing just fine as well. Here is a picture of some tomatoes that I planted. They are in a bed with peppers, but for right now we're going to focus on the tomatoes and how to replant them and get more out of the plant.
As you can see the plants have been very happy in their little greenhouse, made from old window panes. I only watered a couple of times when the seedlings were still small, as they grow they start to form their own eco-system so the humidity that is created within the greenhouse is enough moisture to water the plants. I did have to pull out some weeds before this picture (one of the downfalls of organic farming), but the plants have done quite well just being left alone for the past 2 months. People always think I'm crazy starting my tomatoes outside in February, but I know that will a little protection from the chilly nights they will do just fine.
Here is a closer picture of the tomato plant. What I do now may shock people that aren't familiar with tomatoes, but I strip most of these leaves off and re-bury the plant. When you have a plant that looks this happy you may think that the best thing is to just let it keep growing. You can do that, and you would have a crop, but to get a better crop the best thing to do is to take this time to refocus all of its energy on the roots, not the foliage. It's not warm enough to have the tomatoes out of the greenhouse just yet, I like to take them out after Memorial Day. Since the tomatoes aren't ready to be out in the garden on their own quite yet, the best thing is to focus on a strong root system which will make your plant much healthier in the long run.
First thing, remove the suckers. Tomato plants have leaves and suckers, the suckers are basically mini-tomato plants growing off of the mama plant. You want to remove the suckers and leaves from the main stem. Don't discard the suckers or leaves though, you'll need those.
Suckers grow from in between the stem and the leaves, cut them with pruners or scissors to get a clean cut. Set them aside as you go through each plant, keep them our of direct sunlight though, you don't want them to wilt. For each sucker you cut, fill a little jar with some water and place the sucker in the water. Roots will begin to grow and voila, you have another tomato plant.
I like to make sure these transfer plants have a good root system before putting them back into the beds. I only do this for the first batch of plants, as the original plants grow I will cut or pinch off the suckers and just discard them. When they are still on your plants you will have more tomatoes, but they will be smaller because the plants energy gets spread out. I prefer to have more plants with fewer tomatoes because the quality is much better.
Here is a picture of the tomatoes once all of their leaves and suckers have been trimmed.
I keep the leaves that I cut because they will add nitrogen back into the soil. Once you have the leaves and suckers cut off of the plant you can carefully dig them up. Try not to damage the roots when you are picking it up out of the ground.
Lay the tomato plant on its side. The reason you want to lay it down is because roots will grow from the stem. Some people think that the best thing to do is to plant it deep, this is not the case for tomatoes, they like warmth. The roots will grow better if they are planted in a shallow "grave" so that they can be exposed to the sun's warmth while they are maturing. I like to plant roughly 2 inches deep, I leave just enough of the plant above the surface to let it see the sun.
When I have multiple plants I like to lay them out before burying them so I can get a good visual of where the new roots will be growing.
Always mark where your roots end. One year I forgot to do this and when I went to transplant them in their final bed I cut all of the root system off. The plants didn't die, but it took them a while to recover from it. Now, I like to place markers where the bottom of the roots are so there's no mistake.
Whenever I transplant anything in the garden (especially fruits and veggies) I make sure that it's not going to be super hot or sunny and always be sure to water once everything is finished. The plants may go into shock, but it will ease their shock if they don't have harsh UV rays pounding down on them and their roots aren't drying from being exposed to air.
Now that I have trimmed up the tomatoes (after watering) I will shut up the greenhouse and let them grow for another month before transferring them to their permanent beds. Once the roots start to form on the suckers I will place them into the greenhouses so they can be next to their mamas.
My make shift greenhouses may not look great, but they do an amazing job.
Now that there is a better root system established I will add a little dirt to the water, the mixture will still be mostly water, you don't want to shove these roots directly in straight dirt yet. More to come on tomatoes, be sure to read my next entry on what to do next.