1 These tomato plants, which we started indoors from seed, were ready to be transplanted into the vegetable garden. Tomatoes should be planted in an area with full sun and well-drained soil. The best time to plant tomatoes is when night time temperatures are consistently above 50-degrees Fahrenheit and when the soil is at least 60-degrees Fahrenheit.
2 In order to make the beds neat, tidy, and free from weeds, Ryan and Wilmer covered the beds with black plastic. Then, using a regular 10-inch pet food bowl as a guide, they planned out where they would cut holes for each of the plants.
3 With a utility knife, circles were cut out of the plastic about two feet apart, creating four spots in each bed. Whether seedlings were store-bought or home grown, they need to be hardened off before planting in the ground. This means getting them acclimated to the outdoor environment by reducing their water and leaving them outdoors for a few hours and then bringing them back indoors - a process that takes about a week to complete.
4 The 10-inch holes were perfect. Keeping the weeds at bay optimizes fruit production. Any kind of weed barrier can be used - newspaper, cardboard, landscape cloth or plastic. Just be sure to remove those materials, that are not compostable, at the end of the season.
5 The holes were big enough to plant in and small enough to prevent a good amount of weeds from emerging. Whatever material is used, cover all the space between the plants, and secure the cloth to the ground using landscape staples. Tomatoes are widely known for their antioxidant content including their rich concentration of lycopene.
6 All the tomato plant beds were prepared the same way. Transplanted tomatoes that are kept free of weeds for the first four to eight weeks can usually outcompete emerging weeds later. Do you know... tomatoes do not have to be deep red in color to be an excellent source of lycopene? Researchers say lycopene from orange and tangerine tomatoes may even be better absorbed.
7 Using a post hole digger, Ryan created holes for each of the tomato plants. Most tomato plant varieties need about 100-days to mature, but there are some that only need 50-60 days. Think of this when trying to decide whether you can still plant tomatoes. You can also stagger your plantings, so you have early, mid and late season tomato harvests.
8 A regular garden shovel or trowel can also work for making the holes, but using this post digger helped to do a lot of holes more quickly.
9 The depth of the hole depends on the tomato plants being transplanted. Measure the height of the seedling from bottom of the root ball to just under the bottom set of leaves remaining on the plant.
10 All the holes were dug and ready for the plants. The only additive needed since the soil was healthy and light is compost. Compost is rich in micro-organisms and nutrients. It improves soil texture, which can increase moisture retention and drainage.
11 Ryan dropped a good scoop of compost into every hole. If you are not sure of the quality of your soil, you can test it using kits from gardening shops. Tomatoes favor a more acidic soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8.
12 This soil is extremely healthy and was recently tilled - only a bit of compost and aged manure was required in each hole.
13 Casey followed the compost with a healthy scoop of fertilizer. The best fertilizer for tomato plants contains a relatively low concentration of nitrogen. High nitrogen content promotes the growth of stem and leaves, but not the fruit and flowers. Instead, tomato plants use phosphorous and potassium to produce fruit. Apply the fertilizer before the tomato plant is placed in the hole.
14 A fertilizer with a 5-10-5 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium is good for the young plants.
16 Two-thirds of the plant should be underground, meaning all but the two top most leaf sets should be buried.
17 Planting deeply helps the plant to develop more roots, and more roots mean more ability to take up water and nutrients.
18 Tomato plants will root along their stems. If the seedling is already too tall and wobbly, dig a trench instead of a hole and lay the plant on its side, gently ending it to a right angle.
19 The stronger root system supports more fruit, and helps the plant to better survive the hot weather. This applies to tomatoes planted in the ground, in a raised bed or in a container.
20 Once the tomato plant is planted, give it a good drink of water, then label it with the appropriate variety.
22 Just a few more tomato plants to get into the ground and we'll be all done!