Twice Transplanting Tomatoes

To  improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. –Winston Churchill

A little over a week ago I judged my tomato seedlings to be on their way for outgrowing their eggshell containers. Many gardeners think you should only move a transplant once or the plant will be shocked and not survive. I don’t believe that is true. Not having enough soil to place them in their final destination and being concerned about extreme weather as of late, I held off on placing the tiny seedlings into the huge outside container and moved them to a location where they will be able to develop a little more.DSC02886

I have read in my garden books about how some transplants die when you bury some of their stem due to root rot. I have read in other resources that it is good to bury some of the stem because new roots will emerge out of the buried stem and create a stronger root system. This was a good opportunity to consult one of my favorite books on the subject for advice specifically with my tomato transplants.

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According to the Heirloom Seed Experts, burying tomato stems is the way to go. So I decided to carefully crack the eggshells (speed up decomposition) and drop the little ones into the holes. I am particularly excited about my first Tomatillo.

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My POA was to plant the tomatillo in a self-watering container and the other three tomatoes in temporary containers that are a little bigger than the egg shells so that they can establish their root systems and harden off before I put two of them in a large grow box and one in a topsy-turvy tomato planter. In addition to planning their new container homes, I will be trying to decide who the container companions will be that will help them grow happier.

Here’s how it went:

DSC02894I prepared the new home for Tomatillo.

DSC02895 Then I dug the hole.

DSC02896Burying a banana peel? Why? Tomatoes love and need potassium and a banana peel organically contains and releases potassium. My hypothesis is that if I bury it into the soil it will slow release it’s nutrients as it breaks down and decomposes (remember, too much of a good thing is a bad thing, so be careful with any fertilizer quantities).

DSC02902DSC02904 I CAREFULLY tapped the eggshell on the ground and GENTLY rubbed my fingers along the bottom so that bits of the eggshell would flake off. I wanted to speed the decomposition process of the eggshell up and leave room for the roots to stretch their legs. I left the eggshell bits around the top layer of soil for three reasons: 1. It is a natural mulch 2. It naturally composts into the soil 3. And it acts as a deterrent for slugs and snails because they don’t like to cut themselves trying to crawl over the broken shells. I would hate for a snail to devour a newly planted seedling.

DSC02903 I did this carefully as well because I didn’t want to disturb the root system but I wanted you to see that the inner layer of the eggshell was still intact. It is super thin so there is no doubt in my mind that it will break down quickly into the soil. You can see that even though I flaked off bits of the eggshell, the roots are still together and unharmed.

DSC02906 Now into the hole.

DSC02908 Securing in place.

Then I repeated the process with the next three tomato transplants.

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Since the eggshell labels would now be covered, I wrote on their names on clothes pins. The colorful containers are flimsy plastic ones I attained from the Monkey Store when I bought flowers. If the root ball doesn’t look like it’s going to come out easily and in one piece when I do the final transplant, I will be able to cut the container with scissors and slide the root ball into it’s final destination.

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DSC02925DSC02926DSC02927 Yes, I used a Starbucks cup as one of the containers. I poked holes in the bottom for drainage and I was all set.

DSC02939 I added a little more soil as needed from a bag of soil that had pictures of vegetables on the cover (remember, I can’t read Kanji). It looked like a potting mix. I normally try to buy potting mix instead of potting soil so that the roots are less likely to be waterlogged. Remember potting mix=aeration and drainage for plants, and potting soil=a blend that retains water longer. As much as it rains here, I’m making sure plants have good drainage.

DSC02960 I took a little break.

DSC02962Here they are in a sunny windowsill on May 12, 2013. They will be here just a little bit longer to grow stronger roots and soon I will move them to the big grow box and the topsy-turvy. Who says multiple changes are a bad thing? Not Winston Churchill, and not I.

My closing thoughts? Don’t be afraid of change.

Love,

Marissa

A special acknowledgement goes out to my husband Brian–my photojournalist for this blog post and my biggest support. I love you.

Coming soon: Pepper Transplants!

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