An Update about Tomato Seeds….
Did you start your tomato seeds yet? If not, you still have time but not time to waste. Tomato Sseds that you start now should be ready to plant outside in 6 – 8 weeks. That sounds like perfect timing, especially if your climate will allow you to begin planting in the next couple of weeks. Spreading out your planting means you’ll be harvesting tomatoes for a longer period and that sounds really good to me!
When your tomato seedlings first emerge they’ll have two tiny leaves called cotyledon. In just a short amount of time they will develop a second set of leaves, called “true leaves”. Begin feeding once a week with diluted liquid organic fertilizer.
When seedlings are about 1 ½” tall they are ready to be potted up into 4″ containers with organic potting soil. (This will be in about 30 days.)
You”ll need to “harden off” the seedlings before moving them outdoors. Start the process by moving the seedlings outside for a few hours every morning. Pick a spot where they get a few hours of gentle sunlight and are sheltered from the worst weather extremes (eastern exposures are great). Don’t take them outside if temperatures threaten to drop much below 60ºF or if rain is imminent. After a few hours, move them back inside. Extend their time outside a few hours at a time over the next two weeks. At the same time, gradually increase their exposure to full sun and the elements. It’s not uncommon at this stage to find your seedlings bending over as they adjust to harsher conditions outside. If they start looking sad, reduce the time outside or stake them up with bamboo skewers.
Transplant outside when day time temperatures are consistently between 70-75 degrees and night time doesn’t dip below 55.
It’s been hot here…really hot. Temperatures soared into the high 90s and sometimes up to105 degrees for four weeks straight. The tomatoes really took a beating. In spite of the shade cloth I put over the plants, some tomatoes were sunburned. In some areas, the shadecloth was too close to the plants and with diminished air circulation, the plants became very susceptible to spider mites. Sadly, most of my tomato growing for this season came to a screeching halt much earlier than anticipated.
It’s not all sad news, though. Because, this year I decided to see what all the chatter about grafted tomatoes was about. I had heard great things but wanted to see for myself. And boy, am I glad I did! The plants have performed better than I could have imagined.
I took this photo yesterday. In two of my garden beds I planted only grafted tomatoes. Those plants are still incredibly lush and full of fruit and flowers. I harvested eight tomatoes from Big Zac and three from Pineapple! If I wasn’t convinced before that grafted plants are absolutely fabulous (I was) then I certainly am now!
Grafted tomatoes allow us to grow heirloom varieties that have been carefully grafted onto incredibly strong rootstock without having to worry about soil born disease. The huge root systems allow the plants to take up more water and nutrition resulting in larger, more productive plants. The grafts are more tolerant of cooler and warmer temperatures, so they can have longer growing seasons.
Planting grafted tomatoes is not quite the same as conventionally grown tomatoes. It’s important to understand the differences between these plants to grow them properly and enjoy the benefits of the graft. In Spring, I will definitely hold classes spefically addressing how to successfully grow grafted tomatoes.
I purchased all of my grafted tomatoes for this season from GardenLife. They ship the Mighty ‘Matos in three packs in the Spring, but the time to order will soon be here! They will offer about 37 varieties of tomatoes and I cannot wait to order mine!