Growing tomatoes is fun! They grow easily in pots which works really well if you have limited space like me. You can avoid some common problems later in the growing season by properly preparing them for transplanting. You won't find most of these tips in gardening books. They are the things I learned through many, many long conversations with avid gardeners combined with 25 years of personal experience in the garden and a master gardener certification.
In my garden, I use commercial potting soil. No need to get new bags every year,I resuse the same soil from year to year. Here is my pile of potting soil from last year's tomatoes. It sat like this all winter.
Now that I am ready to use it again, I will need to refresh the soil by adding some admendments. I added a bit of fertilizer, (tomatoes are heavy feeders) and some compost. Here is the refreshed soil ready to go into my pots.
The first thing you need to do is find a suitable pot. The 3 gallon buckets you got from the grocery store for free work really well for tomatoes (see Monday's post) and the best part about using them is you won't need to repot again later in the summer. That is what I am going to use here.
Planting tomatoes in pots does require some additional amendments. These amendments help tomatoes planted directly into the ground as well. To add amendments, fill about 1/3 of the pot with the soil. Then add four antacid tablets to the pot. Yes, antacid tablets! I use the big box store brand . Doesn't matter if it is fruit flavored or mint. I use 750 mg. This stuff is calcium carbonate which tomatoes need to prevent blossom end rot. Don't put too many in the pot at once. If there is too much calcuim in the soil, the tomato can't get the other trace minerials it needs (such as baron). My experience has been that four antacid tablets seem like the right number to add at the time of transplanting into a large pot or bucket. You will need to add two or three more to the pot each month to prevent blossom end rot.
If you are placing your tomatoes directy in the ground, you are less likely to have a problem with blossom end rot so only put the four in the hole with the tomato when you transplant it, you won't be adding more tablets each month.
The other amendment I use is Agrosoke crystals.The label calls them Root Watering Crystals, Agrosoke is the brand name. I get mine at one of the home improvement centers in the gardening department. This stuff will help keep the soil evenly moist between waterings or rain. Evenly mosit soil reduces blossom end rot and split or cracked tomatoes. Here is what the pot looks like when you add the soil amendments.
At this point, you can add a couple of additional handfulls of dirt, then mix it well or just leave it like you see in the picture and fill the pot up with soil.
Now, lets address the tomato plant itself. Tomatoes transplant easily. However, to give the plant the best possible chance to establish itself in its new home, submerge the plant in the soil up to the top leaves. Do this whether you plat the tomato in a pot or in the ground. Before submerging it, remove all the bottom leaves. You can just pinch them off with your fingernail. Here is a before and after picture to show you what I mean.
Now the tomato is ready to be planted. Gently firm the soil around the stem of the tomato so it doesn't break.
Tomatoes don't like to have the soil splash on their leaves so the last step is to mulch the plant. You can use hay, small pebbles or pine straw. The point is to make sure when you water or when it rains, the leaves don't get dirt on them. I use pine straw because it is widely available here in the south.
So there you have it! A tomato plant transplanted to its new home and all set to grow and produce wonderful jucy tomatoes for eating all summer long!