Non-GMO, Heirloom, Open-Pollinated, & Public Domain Seeds
For Guerilla Gardeners Sowing Subversive Plots
If buying small seedlings, your plants will benefit from repotting one more time before being planted permanently outside. Choose a 4-6” pot (half gallon milk cartons with drain holes poked in the bottom work well) and plant them deep. Snip off the lower leaves with scissors and plant the seedling up to the top two sets of leaves. This encourages strong, sturdy plant growth. Refill the space around your plant with soil and press lightly to compact the soil and water thoroughly. Place the pot in a shallow container like an aluminum pie pan and from then on, only water from below by adding water to the pie pan. While indoors, keep the seedlings under a bright light. Kitchen counter fluorescents work well. The leaves should be as close to the light as possible – almost touching. Just find something tall enough that you can set the pot/pie pan combo on to get the plant close to the light. Otherwise, your tomato will grow a long, spindly stem as it tries to reach the light. If this happens, repot again and bury deeply, or you can plant it deeply when you plant outside. As the weather warms, “harden off” your seedlings by taking them outside during the day for a short periods at first, increasing the time each day, and bringing them in at night to protect them from any sudden decrease in temperature. Be sure to protect them from the wind and too much sun at first as you harden them off. Once they can stay outside full time, it’s time to plant them out permanently.
Tomatoes can be grown easily in patio containers. Be sure to offer a large enough pot ( a five-gallon bucket with a few drain holes in the bottom is not too small), and place it in a full-sun location. Support plants with stakes or cages to ensure proper fruiting. Be sure to monitor water, as containers dry out more quickly than plants in the ground.
Plant tomatoes in the ground 24 to 36 in. apart in rows. Each row should be spaced 48 inches apart. It's very tempting to put them closer at planting time, but if you get them too close you'll only increase the chance of disease. Use slow-release fertilizer at planting time. Choose a sunny location (6+ hours of sun) and dig a hole about two times as wide as your pot. Remove your plant from the pot by loosening the soil and tipping it out into your hand. Plant tomatoes deep in the soil – up to the top two leaf nodes. The tiny hairs on the stalk have the potential to become additional roots, which will stabilize your plant well in the soil. Refill the space around your plant with soil and press lightly to compact the dirt, keeping your plant firmly in the ground. Water immediately to settle the soil, and add more soil as needed, bringing it level to the rest of your garden. You'll need stakes or wire tomato cages to support the plants and keep the fruit off the ground where it might rot.
Tomatoes need even watering to prevent rotting. Water thoroughly but not too often (twice per week should suffice at first), and try to water early in the day so that plants will dry off before evening. This helps to reduce disease problems. Using drip or soaker hoses can use water more efficiently and the leaves don't get wet. Mulching helps ensure an even supply of moisture is available to the plant. Tomatoes prefer regular feeding once the fruit sets, but too much early in the season will grow a large plant with fewer tomatoes.