Wednesday, May 7, 2014

moving day for the tomatoes!

We're getting ready for the big tomato transplant this weekend! Today I moved my rangy tomato plants from the greenhouse to the field. There, they will have a few days to get accustomed to the outdoors before they get yanked from their pots and plunged into the cold, cold earth.

Ranger Jane and her payload of weepy tomato plants.
The process is called "hardening off," and it's a fairly literal phrase. The plants (or really, their cell walls) are weak from being pampered in the close-to-ideal greenhouse environment: no wind, lashing rain, hail, or wild temperature changes. To survive the transplant intact and strong, they need to get some muscles! In an ideal world, they would have a week or two to get acclimated, but we don't have a good place for hardening off on the farm. As long as they're outside, I need to water them, and since the farm is a 40-minute trip each way (without traffic) from where I live now, I'm obviously trying to keep my daily commuting to a minimum.

Anyway, all that is to say that today the plants moved outside. They're long and lanky from being so closely packed on the greenhouse table, but I'll fix that on planting day by burying them deep. Tomatoes are cool because they actually sprout roots from their stems if they have any soil contact (you may have seen that on tomato plants that bend too close to the ground), so burying them deeply just gives them more roots and a stronger grounding.

My main challenge for the day was not letting those weak stems snap as the plants moved around. (Plants, unlike boots, are not make for walkin'!) I lost one in the transition, but that seemed like a pretty good percentage to me.

Almost home...
I put them in the field, right next to the beds where they will soon live out the rest of their lives, then covered them with remay for a little protection. Remay is an agricultural fabric that lets in light and water, but adds a few degrees of warmth when compared to the air and soil outside. In this case, it'll also act as a wind break for my willowy tomatoes.

All tucked in!
When I came back later in the evening to water one more time, I found that the plants had already mostly righted themselves after their epic trek. They should be ready for transplanting in no time!

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