The day has arrived – the forecast looks like 10+ overnight and 20+ during the day for the ongoing future! It’s not officially summer, but it’s summer growing weather. If your tomatoes are hardened, it’s time to plant them in the ground!
As with pretty much all gardening advice, people have personal preferences for how to transplant tomatoes into the garden. If your mom or grandpa or someone else tells you differently than me, I won’t be offended! But here’s the way I do it – it’s a variation of the way my mom taught me.
Transplanting into the ground is not too different from transplanting into a bigger pot. You need the same tools (digging instrument, garden gloves) and a supply of water. I prefer to put my cages in right away as well because several years ago I learned the hard way how frustrating it is to try and get a cage around a plant that’s gone a little wild.
First, depending on the size of the plant, I decide how deep I’m going to bury it. For the one pictured below, I wanted to bury it right up to the leaves, so I chopped off the lower branches/leaves. Dig an appropriately sized hole – you can stick the plant, pot and all, into the hole to check if it’s the right size.
Next, I always fill the hole with water and let it partially drain, to ensure there’s moisture at the bottom of the hole where the roots will be. It’s been pretty dry in Saskatoon this spring, so pay attention to how dry your dirt is at the root level. This will be a good indicator of how much you will need to water over the next few days especially.
Then I put the plant in and bury it! Water deeply again, put the cage over, and you are good to go! (The next two pictures are different plants, one much bigger than the other – the second one was very big and I buried it as deep as possible but wasn’t quite able to go all the way up to the top leaves.)
You can see that this isn’t the end of the post yet. If you bought all your seedlings from a greenhouse or started them super early and they’re quite mature, you can stop here. If you started seedlings along with me in March or April and they’re still little tinies, I have an additional recommendation.
I did not put all my little tinies in the ground today. I chose two varieties of which I have some “backups” as test transplants, to avoid putting all my eggs in one basket.
The process for transplanting an extra-small seedling is largely the same as above, except you will need to be extra-gentle when handling the plant. As well, it is a good insurance policy to protect these delicate plants from strong winds and blazing sunlight.
There are endless options for how to protect little tiny tomato plants. My mom used milk cartons, I’ve seen others use yogurt containers, plant pots half buried, etc. Last year because the growing season was so weird, we bought a bunch of red tomato greenhouse plastic to extend the season, and so I’m going to use what I have.
Essentially, I’m putting my little tinies in greenhouses to help them along since they need a bit of a boost. To do so, after planting, I threaded the bottom spokes of the tomato cage through the holes in the plastic and then tied it at the top. Now they are nicely protected from burning sun and wind, but the red plastic apparently allows in the exact wavelength of sunlight that tomatoes want. It also has holes for airflow.
I would personally recommend greenhouse plastic, after using it for one year so far. It’s not the cheapest if you have a lot of plants, but it was a lot easier to have something I could just leave on my plants in the fall instead of having to constantly cover them overnight as it got colder. As well, putting it on early in the season before the plants get out of control is much easier than doing it in August! I’m thinking I probably will put all my plants in “greenhouses” over the next week, even if they don’t actually need it right now.
Fingers crossed on the little tinies – I’ll definitely own up and update if somehow this greenhouse experiment ends up killing them!