By Charlie Nardozzi

Gardeners know short and stocky tomato plants are the best type for transplanting. But no matter when I start my tomatoes indoors, or how close I put the lights to the seedlings, they still get leggy. Now there's another technique I can use to keep my plants short and stout.

Thomas Bjorkman, a vegetable crop physiologist at Cornell University's Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, found that brushing his hand over tomato transplants' tops--10 strokes daily starting when the plants are 2 1/2 inches tall until they're transplanted outside--produced a 20 percent height reduction compared with unbrushed plants.

More than 10 strokes didn't significantly enhance the effect. It's also okay to miss a day or start brushing once the plants get a bit leggy, but you may not see the full height reduction. Bjorkman calculates that every day you brush equals a 1/10-inch reduction in height. "Just brush them with your hand gently, as you'd pet a cat," he says. Who would have thought that petting your tomatoes would make them grow better.

Charlie Nardozzi is senior horticulturist at National Gardening.

About Charlie Nardozzi
Thumb of 2020-06-04/Trish/0723fdCharlie Nardozzi is an award winning, nationally recognized garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert gardening information to home gardeners through radio, television, talks, tours, on-line, and the printed page. Charlie delights in making gardening information simple, easy, fun and accessible to everyone. He's the author of 6 books, has three radio shows in New England and a TV show. He leads Garden Tours around the world and consults with organizations and companies about gardening programs. See more about him at Gardening With Charlie.

Member Login:

( No account? Join now! )

Today's site banner is by Murky and is called "Pink Begonias"

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.