Where’s the Tomato?

Philly’s cold wet spring (remember that?) has been immediately replaced by a hot, dry August. Er. June. A few weeks ago, in a flurry of pre-littlest deckhand productivity, spindly-looking seedlings were planted and just today the minder managed to thin, snip, and top off those tomato pots.

Incidentally, it appears as though the newest (and littlest) deckhand isn’t much help after all. When asked to haul up a bucket of water she said, “pbbbbtttt.” Go figure. But, thanks to an hour-long walk with Appa, the tomatoes got a second helping of dirt.  The goal here, by the way, is that new roots will form along the newly submerged stem and the plant will grow big and strong. The tomatoes even got the first complex sentences of the day. Not once did their minder say, “Where’s the tomato?” Progress.

And plenty of tomatoes, there are. Here’s hoping this year’s crew, which includes patio princess, sweetheart of the patio, tomande, and good old gold nugget (all determinates this year) fare well — ’cause thinning means repotting, in POD’s book. Now we’ve got three tomandes, two gold nuggets, one patio princess, and two sweethearts.

There’s the tomato.

Sweetheart of the PatioSweetheart of the Patio


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

Bad Blogger

Bad blogger. Bad gardener. The past couple of weeks have been nuts in PODland. It’s good to be back. And it only makes sense that these hands would dive into the dirt today, with yesterday marking the bi-yearly sojourn to the nail salon for a delightful (and much needed) little mani/pedi action.

So we’re off to a late start, but that’s okay, as it seems spring in South Philly is off to late start, too. While these tomatoes should have probably been started a couple of weeks ago, we’ll just have to make do.

Sweetheart of the Patio, Tomande, Gold Nugget, Patio Princess
The Lineup

Introducing Patio Princess, Sweetheart of the Patio, and Tomande. Welcome back, Champ (Gold Nugget). Grow well.

Dirt Bag
Dirt Bag

And instead of relying on whatever leftover soil that could be excavated from the little blue deck and the basement, this year’s collection enjoys a lux home. And while while peat pots aren’t POD’s favorite, here’s hoping this year’s experiments with bottom-watering will keep them happily moist.

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°.