Thursday, 22 March 2012
Pricking out Tomato Seedlings
Seedling season is ramping up and the first of my little plantlings to be pricked out and potted up are the tomatoes I sowed back in January. All three varieties, Moneymaker, Yellow Stuffer and Gardener's Delight are over an inch tall and quickly using up all the space in their trays. So it's quite urgent that they're potted up into individual modules before their roots become hopelessly entangled and they start to suffer from being in such close quarters.
Most of my tomatoes are destined for my Farmers Market stall though I plan on keeping about ten of them here at home for both inside the conservatory and outside in the garden. Growing them outdoors hasn't been that successful for me since I grow them so far north and have to contend with cooler temperatures and the ever persistent Blight that seems to affect them just before their fruits turn red.
I hope the rest of my multitudes find good homes through my stall but I've got to give them the best chance of growth in these early days in order to make them 'fruitful'. Good potting compost is essential as is warm conditions and making sure each plant has enough, but not too much space to spread its roots. This means that the tomato seedlings are potted up into small modules now and then in a month's time or so are potted up again into the next largest pots which will be sizable enough to sell them on at the market. It's important to not to pot up into larger pots initially because that means the roots spread out too much and don't bulk up into proper root-balls before they hit the sides of their pot. Not having a strong root system can affect the chances that plant has of growing on once it's been planted out.
Planting these tiny seedlings into their first modules is the toughest part of growing tomatoes from seed. Their roots and stems are fragile at this state and can be easily damaged. So when you're lifting them from the seed tray try to just hang on to them by a single leaf and tease their roots out gently with a pencil or small stick. Once you have them free, tuck them into the new pot or module - first pressing a hole in the centre of the compost makes this step much easier. Gently water in and let them grow until they've put on a couple more inches before potting them on again.
It's another gorgeous day today and I'm off to do some errands before coming home and finishing up potting of the rest of the tomatoes I didn't get to yesterday. I also managed to sow some Toothache plant seeds yesterday and am very interested to taste one of their flowers. It apparently gives you a little electric shock. Probably not to everyone's taste but fascinating nonetheless!
Have a great day and enjoy the sunshine :)