Transplanting tomatoes


So many have asked, “Am I’m going to plant my tomatoes in the ground soon?” The answer is not too soon. I just transplanted all my tomatoes into 2″ pots and they need to get bigger! (Look Linda and Lava, how big they are already!) All you who ordered your tomatoes will get them, don’t worry. When? As soon as they are ready.

I actually delayed starting them this year as I don’t want to put them in their wall of waters (WOWs) too big. Wall of waters are great protecting our tender plants from the cold nights and from the WIND. I will still put my plants in WOWs even if it doesn’t freeze at night anymore because they like the warm environment the WOWs provide. And tomatoes love heat. It does look as if the freezing nights are over but one never knows. Might be one of those early warm years. Wouldn’t that be great!

Many newbies and some of us oldies get impatient to plant outside as soon as the May 15 (or even sooner) magical date has arrived. Really? It’s a guideline, not carved in stone. Will you be out there come hell or high water, cold temperatures or crazy winds trying to get an early start? To what advantage? I’ve found those with patience have the biggest advantage as they know that if they wait maybe just a little longer than that magical date, they may not only catch up to those who planted sooner, but may surpass them in growth. Why? Because the earth gets warmer, the nights gets warmer and the days will surely get warmer too-all good things when planting tomatoes (and other warm season crops). So don’t be in such a hurry-slow down and enjoy the beginning of this next growing season.

69 tomato plants in the ground! 5 more to go


The tomatoes in their Wall of Waters to stay warm at night. Doesn’t look like much now but come July the tomatoes should look like a jungle.

What a whirlwind week. Elodie Holmes and Mernie Elsesser helped me plant 35 tomato plants on Monday and on Friday Janet Hiron helped me plant 24 more tomato plants for a total of 59 in the main garden. Great to have such good friends help with what would be an overwhelming task for one person! Thanks to all!

Sunday I planted 10 more in the greenhouse and still want to plant 5 more in the raised beds by the house but the bulk of the work is done with the tomatoes. There will be a total of 74 tomato plants this year for the Tomato Lady. We put wall of waters around each plant. Even though we are past freezes at night here in Santa Fe, tomatoes (and peppers) do not like the cold nights and 45°F is cold to them right now. They don’t like any temperature from 55°F and lower and it will be a while before we get above 55°F at night. The wall of waters act like little greenhouses keeping your tomatoes and peppers warm at night after absorbing all that sun in the daytime. By the time the tomatoes outgrow the wall of waters, the night temperatures will be warmer and we can take them off.

This week: Planting giant pumpkins and the start of the rest of the veggie garden

44 tomatoes planted today!

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Phew! What a day. Three of my friends came over this morning and all together we planted 44 tomato plants from 8:30-12:30! What a bunch of busy beavers! Janet started out the morning before the others came and screened all my vermicompost and filled three-5 gallon containers. Then Lava showed up and Janet and her put in all my amendments in each hole (I had previously dug out most of the holes and Bob Z came by yesterday and finished digging them for me-another great friend)! Then today, I could barely keep ahead of the girls, me setting out plants, making sure each plant had a drip to it, name tags, map of all the tomatoes, providing stakes and wall of waters while Lava planted them and Mernie and Janet followed up behind putting the wall of waters on all of them. Then we all had other things to do and off we all went.  A wonderful day to plant- not too windy and not too hot-it was overcast! A huge thanks to Lava, Mernie and Janet for helping me today and to Bob for helping me yesterday-would of taken me days to get that far. It takes a village to do this much! Mucho gracias!

Americorp students help plant tomatoes

Today I had some AmeriCorps students help plant some of my tomatoes. I think we planted about 25 of them. What a great bunch of young adults giving service. In case you didn’t know AmeriCorps is like the Peace Corps  (only here in America) where people join and give their time and energy for one year to help communities and farms and learn many skills on their journeys. I explained how I plant tomatoes and  gave them some handouts to take home explaining the process. I hope they take back this information to their communities and share their new tomato growing skills! My only regret is I didn’t get a picture of them before they left! A big thanks to all of you who helped today!

More tasty tomatoes and peppers with Epsom Salts

Get more tomatoes with Epsom Salts

Epsom Salts May help increase blossoms in tomatoes and pepper plants. Increase in blossoms means more tomatoes and peppers!

Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate, two important elements for plant growth.

Magnesium– can become depleted in soil usually later in the season. Magnesium helps strengthen plant cell walls, helping the plant to absorb nutrients. It also helps to increase blossoms.

Sulfur– improves the growth and overall health of plants, it may also help our high alkaline soil here in the southwest.

There are two ways to use Epsom salts for tomatoes.

1. Mix 1 tbsp of Epsom salts into the soil at the bottom of the planting hole when transplanting tomatoes or peppers or mix 1 tbsp in a gallon of water and water the transplant. It may help plants absorb Calcium and other nutrients from the soil.

2. Use as a foliar spray of 1 tbsp per gallon of water when the plants flower. Epsom salt helps set more blossoms.

I’ve used Epsom Salts on my tomatoes, peppers and even roses for years. It will help roses produce more flowers. Scratch in 1/2 cup of  Epsom salts in soil around rose bush and water in.

Started planting tomatoes May 11


I started transplanting tomatoes into the new garden section. My friend Tom, and I got 15 of them in the soil-all ready to go. We added to each hole: more compost, yum-yum mix, mycorrhizal fungi (for root growth), worm castings, epsom salts (for many blossoms), and dry milk (adds calcium to avoid blossom rend rot later). And this year to (hopefully) conserve on water usage, I’m trying silicon gel granules and some volcanic ash, both of which will keep water longer around the plant root zone.  All this stuff is mixed up with some of the existing soil in the hole.  Then we put the tomato plants in (and if they are rootbound, open the roots up a little), made a well around each one and water each hole several times to get the soil wet. Then I go back a third time and water in some Superthrive and seaweed fertilizer (helps with plant transplant shock). Afterwards I put a drip line around each plant and then put a wall-of-water around each of them to keep them warm at night because just when we think we are out of the woods weatherwise, it gets cold again.

To keep the wall-of-waters from collapsing when the wind gets blowing hard, I put some bamboo stakes inside the walls as shown in the second picture. Overkill? Maybe. But I will get some fantastic tomatoes during the season. I still need to put the main drip hose (1/2 inch size) around the perimeter of the patch and connect each individual drip line to it but I can hand water every other day for now till I get to it. Planting is the hands on intensive part-later it will be a breeze watching them grow..

Tomorrow-May 16, Amy Hetager, from Home Grown New Mexico, is coming with her students from Americorp to plant some more tomatoes. No shortage here-still got 55+ tomatoes to put in the ground!

Pictures of Planting Tomatoes Outside

Well it’s time to plant tomatoes! Finally! This cold and windy weather is going to take us almost up to the average first frost free date and the tomatoes inside are chomping to get out in the world! I will still use ‘Wall of Waters’ on all of the tomatoes that are not too tall as the nights are still very cool for a tomato. Here are some pictures of how I  transplant tomato plants outside.

First I harden them off outside for about 4 days or longer if I can wait that long! I put them outside for an hour or two each day and increase their outside time each day. Start getting them use to our harsh conditions they will have to endure.

Next after I dig the hole, I add some yum-yum mix (a handful), a tablespoon of powder milk, a tablespoon of epsom salts, a shovelful or two of aged compost (or bagged compost) and a small handful of mushroom compost (not too much-its high in salts). Then I mix it up with some of the soil I dug out.

In addition, new for this year, I am adding a small handful of humate and a tablespoon of bone meal (for lots of flowers) and some worm castings. I will mix this in with the above amendments.

Next I take off any lower leaves, especially if the plant has become leggy and place it deep in the hole with the amendments and backfill with the  amended dirt. If it is really tall, plant it on it’s side. It will develop roots on the stem either way.

Notice how deep it was planted. Here I make a ‘well’ around each plant and place my drip line tightly around the new plant (not shown).

Fill the well several times–one time with Seaweed and ‘Thrive’ in a bucket. DO NOT use a regular fertilizer like Fish Emulsion at this time. Wait till the plant acclimates. Later as the plant grows, after I remove the wall of waters (when the tomato plant peeks out over the top of them), I will loosen the drip line inside the well to water more of the root zone as the plant grows.

To put my wall of water on the plant, I place a 5 gallon bucket inverted over the plant. Then put the wall of waters over it-do this part in the morning so the water has time to heat up the cells that will give off the heat at night back to the tomato. Fill up the ‘cells’ with water and remove the bucket. Be sure to pull the handle up on the bucket when you first put the wall of waters over it or you’ll have a hell of a time removing the bucket.

I place a few bamboo sticks inside to hold it up should a big gust of wind come up. I also tie another bamboo stick next to the tomato plant and loosely tie up the plant with a twistie tie so it doesn’t fall down. Remove the wall of waters when the plant outgrows it. Here is how the plant looks in the wall of waters. Ok now I get to multiply this times 64 plants…

Related post: Secrets to planting tomatoes

The last of the tomatoes are finally in. Phew..

Yesterday I planted 10 more tomatoes to make a grand total of 61 tomatoes! That’s it-I’m done planting tomatoes-no mas! I still have to put in the corn, winter squash, and giant pumpkins which should be done by the end of the weekend. The end of the big push is in site!

transplanted tomatoes again

On  April 4 I transplanted some tomatoes in my 4″ pots up to gallon size. They went  “shocky” as I didn’t have room to keep them under the lights even though I gave them Thrive. So I had to build another lightbox on Tuesday to house them and now they are good again. I guess they got a little cold.  Here is a picture of them in the gallon size now. Notice I put some bamboo supports for the stems that I tied with garbage bag twist ties. That way I can relax the twist ties as the stems get bigger.

April 4-tomatoes transplanted to gallon size-doing well

I still have 36 more tomatoes to transplant by this weekend up to gallon size!  This will be the last transplant before putting them in the soil. With about 75 plants, I will give some away to my friends who grow tomatoes! I also changed my planting soil now for the gallon size. Now it is Sungro 702. See picture here.

Sun Gro Metro Mix 702 growing medium

Here is a pic of the ones I will transplant this weekend. I still have some tomatoes left in 4″ pots that won’t need transplanting before going into the ground as I started them later. Notice in the picture below that I raised up the smaller plants on the right side of the pic by putting them on another upside down container. I do this so the smaller plants are at the  same level of the higher ones so they are the same distance away from the lights. Otherwise they would be further away from the lights and could get spindly. Keep your plants within 2 ” of the lights to keep this from happening.

tomatoes in 4″ pots need transplanting

Just transplanted tomatoes

Last year was my first try at growing tomatoes from seeds and I really struggled with them. They were small, stunted and turned purple. So I have done some things different this year. First I didn’t start them so early. I waited until the first week of March to plant them instead of Feburary. Second, I put the lights within 2″ of the plants at all times. Third I put up some reflective insulation which looks like silver bubble wrap all around the lightbox to keep the heat in during the day and for reflection. Fourth, I put some sheets of the insulation on top of the light box at night to keep more heat in. Fifth, I put aluminum foil on the base of the light box where the tomatoes sit on. Both the reflective insulation and the foil really make the light bounce around and give the plants more light. Sixth, the tomatoes are on a timer so the lights go off at 10:30 pm and back on at 6:30 am so they get 16 hours of light and 8 hrs of darkness. I learned in my MG class that plants need darkness to help with photosynthesis. So last year’s tomatoes turned purple as they got cold and couldn’t absorb phosphorus.  But not this year. I transplanted  about a week ago my first batch of tomato seedlings out of their small cell into 3″ pots. These are some pics of the first batch.

So far they are doing well. Today I transplanted the second batch that was ready. I read somewhere that you should transplant tomatoes when their first true set of leaves come out (the very first baby leaves when it germinates are called cotyledon leaves but these are not the first true leaves-the next set is) but I waited until the second set of true leaves came out and I think they’ll do better.

I buried the stems up to the cotyledon leaves and gave them some Thrive to help with the transplanting. Look how much they have grown already!