Transplanting Tomato Seedlings Into Garden Beds

29 Apr

Whether you are growing your tomatoes from seed, or planting seedlings you have bought from a nursery, it is important to follow the correct transplanting procedure. Even if you have sown seed directly into garden beds, in seed rows, there will be a certain amount of transplanting that will need to be done to make sure that plants are nicely spaced for maximum yield. Many gardeners in any case move them all to an entirely new area which has been properly prepared for the crop.

This doesn’t mean that if you simply toss tomato seeds into well-prepared garden beds, and generally take a hit and miss approach that you won’t succeed in growing juicy, tasty tomatoes. It is just that if you do it right, they’ll be even better, and you will be guaranteed of a superior and considerably more bountiful crop.

If you are growing tomatoes from seed, you should keep the packet and follow the supplier’s instructions. But still bear these tips in mind.

Generally by the time seedlings have been growing for about three to five weeks, depending on the cultivar, season and general weather conditions, you will find that they are between 100 mm and 125 mm high. This will usually be anything from six to eight weeks after the seeds were sown. If you are going to buy seedlings that are ready to plant, make sure they are dark, green sturdy plants that look healthy. If you have grown your own from seed, you will inevitably find that some plants are stronger than others, and it is best to discard those that are either yellow or spindly.

Once you have seedlings that are ready to be transplanted, you need to be sure that soil conditions are right. Apart from preparing your garden beds to ensure that the soil quality, drainage and so on is as good as it can be, you need to be sure the temperature of the soil is no lower than 15° C (60° F). Tomatoes are primarily a summer crop, but you can grow them throughout the year with relative success in areas that do not suffer from winter frost – provided you take soil temperature and ambient conditions into account. Guess by all means; but if you want to get it right, use a soil thermometer before you start transplanting. If the weather is very hot, it is also best to wait for a cool snap since hot sun can annihilate newly transplanted seedlings.

If you are transplanting tomato plants that have been growing in pots and other containers in protected places, it is essential to harden them for at least a week before moving them. In this case what you need to do is increase their exposure to sun and other elements before you transplant.

When you plant the seedlings out, make sure that they are a little deeper in the soil than they were either in the pot, seedling tray or in the rough seed rows. Make a small hole, pop the seedling into the hole and then backfill with good quality soil and compact around the plant. Alternatively prepare shallow trenches and plant rows of seedlings in these, backfilling and compacting as you go.

Ideally trough the seedlings before you plant, removing all but the top four leaf stems.

Water well after planting and then follow the guidelines given in How to Grow Juicy Tasty Tomatoes.