How We Grow Tomatoes at Deer Isle Hostel

| 6/12/2014 4:24:00 PM

Transplant Tomato Plants

Few other vegetables represent summer as a sun-ripe, homegrown tomato does. Even gardeners with limited space seem to prioritize tomatoes and we have many friends in urban areas that grow tomato plants in pots on their balcony or roof top. June here on Deer Isle has already been warmer than I would ever ask for. Our hostel – the Deer Isle Hostel – is picking up pace and most of the garden is planted. The tomatoes are all in the ground and now all we can do is to stand back with our fingers crossed that they will keep looking as good as they've done all along.

Starting Tomato Plants From SeedTransplanting Tomatoes

I start my seedlings in my neighbors house around the 3rd week of April. Her house stays warmer than ours that at that time often gets down below 50's at night. I start them in six-packs (pots with six slots) with two seeds in each slot. After about two weeks I transplant them to a 3 inch x 3 inch pot and at this time I also bring them home and have them on our kitchen table in front of a big south-facing window. It can still get pretty cold at night, but I consider that a benefit since my plants tend to be hardier and less prone to shock once planted outside compared to seedlings raised in heated spaces.

Spring can be cold and wet here in Maine and some years it's hard to find a good window of nice weather for when to transplant the tomatoes to the garden. I use the 10 day forecast and once it'll stay in the 50's day and night I usually take the chance. Upper 40's is ok, as long as it doesn't get too wet. Tomatoes are fine with some cold, but reacts poorly to being damp. Most years the plants grow very big in the small pots before I can put them outside. If I had 10 or less plants I probably would move them to bigger pots if I couldn't put them outside once they got big but I have too many for that to be practical. If I start them later that would not be an issue but then I'm running the risk of not having enough time to replant if the seed germination would be poor.

Instead I do my best to keep the plants healthy and to reduce stress. I keep them on our kitchen table at night and bring them outside in the morning. I have cold frames that I put the seedlings in so they get to be in a really warm space and even on cloudy days I bring them outside where it's still brighter than in our house. I pick all the flower buds off to reduce the amount of energy expended by the plant. I also remove all yellowing leaves and if the leaves develop brown spots (a sign of early blight) I pick them off to and try to isolate that plant from the rest to not spread the disease. Even still there's been years when I've almost lost all my plants to stress and disease caused by the cold weather and just because I couldn't bring myself to pull them out the plants were left in the ground and as by magic came around and produced a beautiful crop.

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