Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
April, 2004
Regional Report

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Six weeks old and ready to go, my cherry tomatoes are ready for a prosperous summer in the sun.

Tomato Transplanting Tips

Luscious, sun-ripened tomatoes are among gardening's most wonderful rewards. I want plenty of them, and as soon as possible! Special transplanting techniques foster fast growth, early yields, and great season-long performance. Here are ten tomato transplanting tips every middle south gardener should know.

Ready, Set, Go!
Prepare for your seedlings' big day by setting them in the sun for a week. During this time, allow the plants to dry out slightly between waterings, which helps toughen up both leaves and roots. The day before transplanting, give them a good drench with a water-soluble plant food.

Decide how you will support your tomatoes before you set them out. Will you use stakes, cages, or another type of trellis? Once you have a plan, go ahead and set out the plants. Plant them deep, so the seedling leaves are buried. This method, promoted since 1865, was validated ten years ago in a Florida field trial. Tomatoes transplanted up to their first true leaves produced much sooner compared to shallower planting. And by the end of the season, the deeply planted tomatoes bore 40 percent better.

Install stakes, cages, or trellises as soon as the plants are in the ground. In newly dug beds, cutworms often cause problems. Prevent damage by surrounding plants with collars made of aluminum foil. Or cut gallon plastic milk jugs into 2-inch-wide rings and sink them into the soil around the plants.

When working with overgrown seedlings that already hold blossoms, it's a good idea to pinch off the flowers. This signals the plants to keep growing strong. I also wrap the base of each cage with clear plastic, which protects the plants from wind and keeps them a little warmer during cool nights. When daytime temperatures rise in the 80s, I mulch my plants with grass clippings or straw, which retains soil moisture and suppresses weeds. By this time, carefully transplanted tomatoes are off and running!

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