Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tomatoes Planted Out

 Our first extended period of days without rain has ended.  Today gives every appearance of being an all day rain event.  Gathering together notes and photos of tomato planting seems like a good use of this wet day.  Organizing our experience of this year may help us to know what to do and when to do it next year.

We planted tomato seeds on April 1st, eight weeks prior to the frost free date here.  Each 3.5 inch square pot was filled with our mix of compost, surface soil from the hardwoods floor, sand and peat moss.  Four seeds were placed in each pot.  The tray of pots was placed on an electric heating pad under fluorescent lights.  Sixteen hours of artificial light and 80 degree bottom heat quickly drew the seeds to life.

Four weeks later on May 1st, the seedlings were transplanted with one plant in each pot.  Once the seeds had sprouted, the heating pad was removed.  The tender plants were gradually exposed to sunlight and light breezes.  The containing tray was partially filled with water occasionally so that the leaves remained dry.

Just over three weeks after first transplanting, the plants were moved into one gallon pots.  Straw mulch was immediately applied to prevent soil from splashing up on the leaves.  We used the pour spout on the watering can to direct water to the base of the plant but the plants were allowed to experience rainfall.

It might seem unnecessary to move the plants into large pots since the frost free date was fast approaching.  This is a very busy time in the garden and some extra days in the large pots did not hurt the tomatoes at all.  A hail storm occurred after the safe planting date but we knew it was coming and moved our potted plants back into the safety of the basement.  The large pots allowed the plants to continue to grow at a good pace while taking some of the "Plant it now pressure!" off me.

Well into June, this tomato plant finally found its place in the garden.  Its suckers have been pinched off and the first blossom is open.  Soon the first cloth strip will secure the stem to the stake.  Carefully dried grass mulch was placed as soon as the plants were planted.  We strongly believe that soil cannot be allowed to come into contact with tomato leaves.

Wire fence will keep the deer out and the mulch will control the weeds.  We will try to keep up with sucker removal, watering from the base of the plants and tying stems to the stakes.  If luck follows our efforts, fresh tomatoes will soon be a dinner staple here.

Somehow I feel the need to have spare plants.  A possible empty space in my ordered regularly planted bed is unacceptable.  These spares never moved past the small square pots.  Their pathetic appearance illustrates the benefits of time in the one gallon pots.  The only difference between these sad plants and the ones in the garden is the time in the large pot.  A final move to the compost pile is the next step for these plants.

It might appear that we expend a great deal of effort growing a few tomatoes.  Obviously we do but there is much more involved in the activity than just some fresh sun ripened tomatoes.  The miracle that is a seed is apparent to us every time a seed is placed in the soil.  Watching the transformation from bare soil to a growing plant is a profound experience.  That we make our own soil mix serves to add to the miracle unfolding before us.  All of this combines to make these plants our own.  Crushing defeat lies waiting in the wings if drought, hail or disease takes these plants.  Meals sweet beyond description are ahead of us if all goes well.  In either event, the experience to date has been truly memorable.

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