The weather has warmed up, you’ve hardened off your tomato seedlings, giving them extra special attention every step of the way, and now it’s time to let them flourish outside of the confines of whatever container they were started in. Don’t they seem to grow up so fast? But first, we need to explore how to properly transplant and care for our budding tomatoes before we move them from their controlled environments.
As mentioned before, one of the first things you should do to get your seedlings ready for the big move is hardening them off. Seedlings are typically grown in a controlled environment where you can directly influence the amount of heat and sunlight your plants are exposed to. Hardening seedlings off involves leaving them outside where they can be subjected to natural temperature and light changes throughout the day. This should be done a handful of times each week in the lead up to transplanting and will help prepare your seedlings for thriving outside.
Making sure tomatoes have adequate space to grow is also tantamount to their success. Planting your tomatoes too close together forces them to compete for nutrients and resources as well as heightens the risk of disease spreading between plants. Depending on the space you have available and the amount of tomatoes you plan on planting, you may want to consider the use of trellises, stakes, and twine to help with supporting your tomato plant as it grows.
Protecting your newly transplanted tomato plant can be accomplished in a litany of ways! One of the common methods is mulching the ground surrounding your plant. Mulching can be accomplished using materials such as straw, woodchips, and even old burlap coffee sacks. Mulching is done to keep weeds and other harmful plants from growing and siphoning resources from your tomatoes. Tomatoes also have companion plants that they can coexist alongside without competing for resources! Nasturtium, Basil, and Parsley all serve as great companions as they repel certain garden pests and act as decoy crops for others.
Now we’ve reached the final step, removing your tomato plant from it’s starting container and planting it! To ensure that transplantation is successful you’ll need to be careful with the root system your tomato plant has already formed while in it’s starting container. Make an effort to gently loosen some of the roots that are present, as this will help your transplant with acclimating to its new surroundings once planted. When transplanting, you should remove the bottom few leaves and plant your seedling up to where the leaves were. This will provide your plant with a more stable base and the small, hair like follicles on the stem will grow and become new roots.