Tomatoes are vigorous, fast growing crops. The seeds that my mom planted back in early March have already turned into tall, leggy teenagers that are almost ready to flower. But it’s still a month too early to plant them outside in Vancouver, because as much as tomatoes *seem* hardy, cold or damp weather can cause healthy seedlings to suddenly fall sick.
My family is lucky enough to have access to a heated greenhouse this year, but in the past, we’ve used whatever bright south-facing window we can find (one year, I even started my tomatoes in my office, much to my coworkers’ amusement). No matter the setting, we plant the seeds in tiny self-watering starter trays, and before we know it, they outgrow their confines, getting leggy and root-bound.
Today, I headed over to the greenhouse to do some repotting. My mom had already transferred the tomatoes out of their starter trays and into medium-sized pots, but it only took a couple of weeks for them to outgrow those as well. I had brought over some larger pots from my house, and we got to work.
With tomatoes, it’s important to plant them deep, burying most of the stem. Tomatoes are vines, and they have the ability to grow roots out of their stems if they are covered in soil. Buried this way, they grow healthier, sturdier root structures.
We are growing several types of tomatoes, so before repotting each plant, I used a china marker (cheap and easy to find at art supply stores) to write the variety directly on the pot. I put a couple of handfuls of regular potting soil into the bottom of each big pot, and watered well. Then, I used a small trowel to remove each plant from its too-small pot, and placed it at the bottom of the new pot. Finally, I shovelled in a bunch soil to bury the stem, and watered again. At this time, I won’t give them any fertilizer except for what’s already in the organic potting mix we used, because I don’t want to encourage them to grow any faster than they are already.
A few minutes after the procedure was over, each seedling went into shock. Its leaves curled a bit, and the whole plant drooped. But by tomorrow, I trust that they will be happy again. As my mom says, plants are just like people: they don’t react well to moving out of their small yet comfortable worlds — but once they accept the change, they flourish in their expanded new environment.
To do tomorrow: plant potatoes; transplant brassicas to hoop-houses.