Michael’s Garden Blog -Tomato Transplanting Tips

If one wants to grow hot season vegetables, from mid-May to mid-June is the prime time to get them in the ground. Now that the soil has fully warmed and most nights only get down to the 50’s, it’s time to sow seeds of beans, squash, cucumbers, corn and quick-maturing melons. Other sun loving plants like tomatoes, eggplant, basil and all manner of peppers should be planted outside as starts, after a short hardening off process.

Yesterday [May 28th] the temperature in Santa Fe reached 90 degrees for a short bit encouraging increased pea production and the acceleration of bolting to flower of mature cool season greens. Many people believe that lettuce and other delicate greens cannot be successfully grown here in the summer.  Ample mulch [2″ +] around these plants will help prevent them getting too bitter to eat – letting the soil around lettuce roots dry out at any point will cause this unfortunate event.  Two reasons this delicate produce suffers is by not providing enough organic mulch on top of the soil and also not arranging for some partial shade for the whole bed during the increasingly hot days. Also a must for hot summer is having installed appropriate drip irrigation between the mulch layer and the soil – a main component of a successful Santa Fe area garden!

June Tip-of-the-Month – Tomato Transplanting Tips

1.     The general axiom to plant transplants at the level they’ve been grown can be thrown out the window with tomatoes. Roots will develop along a stem that has been planted below the surface – one gives up a little height to gain a larger root system by using this method. Many tomato starts have achieved spectacular size, but are root bound into a tiny tight ball by drench watering a couple times a day. Pinch off leaves that will be below ground level, rough up the roots a little of heavily root bound plants and always add some root stimulator like ‘Superthrive’ in the first watering can after transplanting.

2.     Tomato plants like to have warm roots – hence the practice of planting in pots can produce some dramatic results. Give each plant plenty of room, work out a good method of staking them as they grow and look out!

3.     With the previous two tips in mind, the next is a logical extension:

i.         Instead of just digging deeper when aiming at increasing root zone, dig a trench or trough a few inches deep, laying the roots and stem horizontally and then bend the stem carefully up above grade to connect to its initial stake.

ii.         Carefully backfill and mark where the root is located so that subsequent cultivating or planting doesn’t sever the main stem.

iii.         Also, try to assure that the soil over the root area is as open as possible to the sun – in other words, don’t have other plants or the tomato plant itself shading the root trench by orienting the roots southward facing.