Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Pots and Pots

Yesterday was all about potting up. The first order of business was potting up the tomatoes that had grown big enough. Not all of them had. My tomatoes have been germinating sporadically, but I think I finally have enough to fill out the garden. There aren't enough of the Heinz, but I'll just add more Market Miracles since there are so many of them.

I grew the tomatoes in the 1 1/2" soil blocks. They are usually ready to plant up when I see the second pair of true leaves. But it is the roots that tell me when to pot up.

The roots start to grow out of the soil block. They have totally filled up the block and I want to give them more room for more roots. Tomato plants are all about how big of a root system they grow. The bigger root system you get the bigger plant you will have. It's all about making more roots. When I grow transplants I never let them get much bigger on top than on their root. I make sure they grow fast. So once I see roots coming out of the block I replant. Those six packs you buy in the nursery just don't grow as well. They are always root bound and have too much foliage for the roots they have. Yes you can recover them to an extent by picking off the lower leaves and burying the stem to make more root, but being root bound is a major stress on the plant.

I transplanted them into newspaper pots. I make the pots 4" tall and about 2 2/3" wide. I like pots that are taller than wide as again it makes for a better deeper root system once planted. I don't make newspaper pots like others do. I consider the newspaper to be an aid in making the soil cylinder. I do not put a bottom on the pot. I just roll up newspaper - only two layers thick. I don't want any newspaper to be in the way of the bottom roots when I plant. And I don't want to encourage the roots to wind around the bottom. I tack the top together with paper clips or masking tape. I don't even bother with the bottom. Then I take enough moist soil to fill up the bottom of the pot and pack it down well. It has to be compact enough to hold together when lifted. Then I drop in my soil block and fill in the edges.

I plant about 1/2" deeper than in the soil blocks. The plants when transplanting are small and don't have much stem to bury. In addition the roots will still fill out the whole paper pot before transplanting. That is the sign they are ready to go into the garden. The roots are coming out the bottom and coming out the sides.

While I was in the nursery I started some cucumbers. I didn't start all of them. I figure with the weather I'll do them in two waves. So in another week I'll start some more. The ones I started this time were the Diamant cukes. I've been growing these for years. They can produce in cool years if we get one. I'm also trying a new cuke. Little Leaf H-19. Both are parthenocarpic. So I don't need the bees to be active. Even periods with a lot of rain can set cucumbers. I'm hoping the latter one works well. I'd like to switch to it if possible. It has a lot of resistances, is open pollinated and doesn't ramble too much. We will see. I'll start those next week.

I also started some more green stemmed bok choy. I thought about the white stemmed one,but it bolts too fast if the weather heats up. It is really a better fall plant, but I like its flavor more than the green one.

My afternoon chore was to get the pots ready for the mints. I don't have the mints yet, but I will soon and they can go right into their new home. I mixed up soil for them. I used equal parts garden soil and compost then added some vermiculite and fertilizer. I know from soil tests that the soil they brought in is high in nitrogen and potassium, so I added extra bone char to even it out.

The one pot I did plant was the one next to the front steps. It still needs the mint in the front. Yes the non decorative ones I'm putting in front. I'm strange that way. In the back is a golden sage. I didn't get it for culinary use. I'm growing a regular sage for that. But it looks so dang pretty and I wanted something to grow tall.

I looked at the forecast and the lows won't be lower than the mid 40Fs for the next 10 days. I'm guessing April 9th was our last frost. Which is pretty unbelievable for the cold spring we had. We just haven't had any large temperature swings. My old hill had a frost on the 17th of April. This place is warmer than my last in spring. I could be planting tomatoes out now. They aren't nearly ready, but I'll have to plan for earlier planting dates at this location. The city really heats up faster. If I make a plastic tunnel for the tomatoes I can really plant pretty early I think.

But then can you trust the weathermen? Yesterday they all said the temps would be about 72F. My weather station said it got to 81.5F. Ten degrees over what they predicted. I've seen a lot of errors this spring that were 10F off. That is a lot to be off by when you are predicting in the morning for that afternoon. Sadly it really was hot and humid yesterday. I was going to plant any of the flowers and such that were big enough already since I suspect we won't get any more frosts. But after hauling dirt around for the pot, I went in to the coolness of my house. I'll have to get to that and weeding the paths, and planting my rose today or tomorrow.


  1. That's a beautiful healthy looking tomato. We've had ours out in the greenhouse for several weeks now and they're looking great. We transplant into yogurt cups that we hoard year round. This weekend we need to re-pot into 4-inch container for the final burst before planting.

  2. I really need to get a soil blocker. I have been reading about them for a while and saw them first on Martha Stewart's show. Maybe next spring. Your tomato block looks wonderful!

  3. That is such a great idea. We have had no luck with the peat pots either. I started using styrofoam and it works better, but I like the newspaper idea, just plug in the ground. Will certainly try that next year. Thanks.

  4. The thermometer in my garden held close to the soil yesterday registered 86 degrees. Crazy. I'm growing Diamant this year as well. Glad you like it.

    I need to get myself a 1 1/2 inch soil block maker. I like my 2 inch blocks for larger veggies like broccoli, peppers and tomatoes but would love a 1 1/2 inch one for things like lettuce and bok choy.

  5. I love that everything you are using to start your seeds will go into the ground and there will be no waste and there isn't money spend on pots that will just get thrown away!

  6. Vida, I just wish the rest of my tomatoes were as large. Some have just germinated so they had better get with it and start growing fast.

    Katrina, I love my blocks. I like them so much more than the plastic six packs. I hated those things. Sadly the petunias I bought at the nursery come in them.

    Lorie, Oh hate peat pots so much. The roots have such a time getting through them at the start. I think it slows the plants down by a week or two to use them. By the time they get planted out my newspaper pots will have lots of roots coming out the side.

    Thomas, yeah yesterday really heated the soil up a lot. I hate 80F weather in April. It helps my spring plants bolt too quickly. I like it if the weather is in the 60s or low 70s. I want my 80s later in the year. And I use my 1 1/2" one much more than the 2" one. I only start cukes, melons, and peppers in the 2" ones usually. All my others from flowers to greens, and even my tomatoes use the 1 1/2" one.

    Vanessa, Me too. Though I used to use the recycled six packs from the nursery. I hated them though. They would get all over and cleaning them was such a chore.

  7. I am growing little leaf cucumbers this year as well. I have a a set of my old stand by Alibi and an equal amount of the Little Leaf variety. Will plant them side by side and compare. Like you, I am hopeful about this new variety.

    Your tomato starts potting up process is very sensible and I imagine produces a really nice transplant that does not skip a beat when planted up in the garden.

  8. Oh wow you work so fast and efficiently. It will take me days just to pot up all of them. I got so easily distracted when gardening as I see other things that need attention. last spring were cold and long for us like summer won't ever come.

  9. Great job you did. It's so wet my seedlings want the garden! It is so wet.

  10. My tomatoes and peppers are stressed, I've wanting to put them into the ground, but the temp keep dropping in the last 2 weeks, half of the time was below freezing and gusty winds, last night it went down to 28F, there are more freezing nights in the horizon, it's weir this year, normally I would have the toms in their permanent home by now.

  11. Great looking tomato. You have me afraid hat my gigantic plants are suffering from stress. Man I need the weather to improve so I can plant them out!

    Great day all around. Well done! Bet it feels great!

  12. I love your bottomless newspaper pots. I wish I read this before I potted up my tomatoes into larger containers. I will keep these in mind for next year. There is so much progression in your garden. I am loving your frequent garden updates.

  13. Peat is endangered, isn't it? Besides being a pain in the neck :-)

    I planted out some seedlings just as it got dark last night, and it's been a howling rainstorm ever since. I wonder what I'll find tomorrow morning when the rain stops, sigh.

  14. I love your newspaper pot idea as well! Thanks for sharing it. I'm also glad to read you have some tomatoes just now sprouting as well. *whew!* Maybe I'm not SO behind after all! :)

  15. Nice tomato root systems! They'll be healthy plants!!

  16. Laura, the variety sounds so good. I'm just hoping it isn't too good to be true.

    Diana, I do my nursery chores before I even go downstairs. I check on the one time and do everything they need them. I'd starve if I got too distracted. Though potting up did take a little time.

    Nancy, We have had a pretty typical April this year. Colder than normal early on, but at least our rain has been normal.

    Mac, Brrr. And here I was thinking you were warmer than I was in general. But I guess it is just this year. It has been a very strange year - but for us not as strange as the last couple of years.

    Sinfonian, If you keep potting them up they won't get stressed. They just need room to grow.

    GrafixMuse, well I keep doing things. This winter I barely blogged, but then nothing was happening in the garden at all.

    Karen Anne, yes and no. Peat can be harvested sustainably, but we usually use too much of it. I don't use peat in my pots because I don't find a need for it. The compost does the job of soaking up lots of water like peat. But it has the advantage that it is local and isn't acidic, so I don't have to worry about liming it. I did use peat in the blueberry beds since I needed to make the soil more acidic quickly. I hope your garden survives. I planted out in the wind too, but the wind up here wasn't nearly as bad as down south.

    Sassy, lol well I usually plant my tomatoes about four weeks before I want them out in the garden. So I use smaller ones than most do. This year some will get in very late. I wish mine were bigger this year.

    Holly, thanks