So, last year’s soil woes (and bug woes, for that matter) were pretty well documented here at plants on deck. Alas, this year’s seedlings, despite fancy seedling soil, plenty of light, and pricking didn’t thrive the way they should. Oh well. (Side note: judging by the piles of diseased leaves hidden in dark corners at my favorite garden source, it’s looking like POD’s not the only one with tomato seedling problems. )

Anyhoo, soil temperatures have finally reached a safe sowing range and, well, big changes are ’round the bend. The spindly suckers on deck.

tomande seedlingYou’ll note that there’s plenty of room to add soil once/if the plants establish themselves. Sort of an attempt to retroactively plant the seedlings below the soil line. That, my friends is experiment #1.

organic tomandeExperiment #2 is a little well, nerdier. If you can believe it. This year’s tomato crop includes tomande, gold nugget, princess of the patio and sweetheart of the patio. Some have been planted in organic soil and compost and some planted in evil MiracleGro. These here tomandes, however, will serve as the purest experimental control: one organic, one not. One will be treated with organic fertilizers and pest control — the other, will not.miraclegro tomande

Uh Oh, Tomatoes

Tomato seedlings pre-pricked
Tomato seedlings pre-pricked

They’d hit a wall. And looked leggy. And as it’s getting close to that time when all the plants on deck need to be on deck, it was time to do something. Like pricking out. Why, you ask, is it “pricking out?”

No clue. Sorry.

But, regardless of whatever silly name gardeners have given the process, it seems to make good sense. About a month ago, Tomande, Princess of the Patio, Sweetheart of the Patio, and Gold Nugget were planted. And since then they’ve glowed the night way in front of wide-spectrum fluorescent bulbs and on sunny days, soak up the rays on a warm, south-facing South Philly window sill.

tomato seedlings true leaves
True Leaves

Last week, though, they hit a wall. The first set of true leaves had appeared — those jagged leaves that sprout just above the “baby” (cotyledon) leaves — and the leaves are a bright, happy green (indicating they’re receiving enough light), but the old nemesis, “legginess” had also joined in on the party.

So, overcoming inertia and general gardening laziness, the poor little things made a trip the the little blue deck for some early transplanting.

pricking potsFirst fill new, larger pots with seedling soil, making a deep well for the plant in the center of each container. Using a fork, gently loosen the dirt around the seedlings.

pricking tomatoes

Then, very gently grasp the seedling by its baby leaves and prick it from the soil. (Hey, maybe that’s the reason. Why it’s not “pulling,” “uprooting,” or “early transplanting” remains a mystery.) Gently lower the seedling into the hole. The leggy stem should be well-submerged tomato prickinginto the new container — new roots will sprout along the newly-buried stem.

Return them to their indoor location.  Water and resume light therapy.

And hope for the best.

tomatoes pricked

Too Many Tomatoes

Seed List, Tomatoes

You didn’t think Plants On Deck was going tomatoless, did you?

After last year’s abundance of well-documented tomato woes (and not such an abundance of tomatoes), this year’s hybrid fixation/experiment includes tomatoes, too. Here’s hoping these compact determinates produce more vigorously than last year’s bug-ridden indeterminates.

Patio Princess Hybrid: “Just the right size for small pots, while 2-3 plants will file a large tub. Each 24″ plant produces an abundance of 2 1/2 – 3″ fruits.”

Sweetheart of the Patio Hybrid: “This compact super producer bursts with snack-ready supersweet  baby cherries about 1″ round.”

Tomand Hybrid: “Tomato connoisseurs rave about the flavor of these broad-shouldered beauties. Fleshy, juicy and flavorful, ‘Tomande’ will treat gourmet gardeners to both heirloom taste and abundant hybrid yields.”

(Of course, Champ is heading back into the ring for another round.)

WARM! Be patient, POD. Don’t transplant those seedlings until Philly’s enjoying open-window 60° nights. 60°. pH 6.0-6.8. Well fertilized (esp. phosphorus, potassium, and calcium.) Consider plastic “mulch” in the early part of the season. 60°.