It’s Not Too Late! Hurry!

Have room for a 5-gallon bucket somewhere? 6-10 hours of sunlight? Good.

Plant your tomatoes in 5-7 gallon buckets or containers. They’re not pretty, but white painter’s buckets can be purchased inexpensively from any hardware store. They’re light (an important consideration for roof deck gardening), cheap, and reflect the sun’s most brutally hot rays.

If you live in the greater Philadelphia region (or are a zone 7ish gardener) Anytime between May 10 and mid-June will probably work for planting your crop. Nurseries and farmers’ markets are still selling plants so get going. (Try to find plants without any blossoms — fruiting takes a lot of energy and transplanting large plants can be fairly traumatic. To the plant. Not you. The plant will be better off in the long run)

Save those evil Styrofoam pellets and use them as a drainage layer. (They’re light and it’s gratifying reuse of a non-biodegradable material — you can even save them for use the following year.) Or, you can break large pieces of packing Styrofoam in more manageable pieces. A 2-3 inch drainage layer seems to work pretty well.

If your plant is small (say, 5-10″), bury 60-75% of the plant beneath the soil line. This will make for a much stronger plant. Snip the leaves that will be buried before submerging them in your clean, organic soil. If your plant is pretty well-established (as most are by now) you just need to make sure you nestle the plant deep enough into your container that the new soil line at least matches the existing one.

Stake them. (see RIP Poblano)

Cage them.

Water them.

Feed them.

Hope for the best.

Tough Tomato Love

Since POD is new to the scene, an opportunity to rattle on about growing tomatoes from seed was missed. Consider yourselves spared.¬† Still, it’s not too late to share a word or two about hardening-0ff. Honestly, it’s not something I’d been patient enough to do properly before. For those of you in cooler climates than Philly and whose tomato seedlings are still snugly secured in the safety of your home, you’ll want to make sure you give the little guys time to acclimatize to a life on the mean streets. Or deck or patio or whatever.

First, be patient. (Which is really not something for which POD is known.) Make sure your average low temperature for the next 10 days hovers around the mid-50s. Then start by placing your seed trays outside, in the shade, for a few afternoons in a row. Remember to take them inside in the evenings. Then, expose them to a few hours of sunshine  and spring breezes for increasing lengths of time. After five days or so you can leave them out overnight.  After 8-12 days they should have gotten over the culture shock and have readied themselves for life as a plant on deck.

Wait for a cloudy day and then transplant your seedling deeply into the soil — only about 25-30% of the plant should be above the soil line. This will strengthen the plant immeasurably. Then, cross your fingers and hope the weather holds.

UPDATE: What’s with these cold temps???? 47 degrees tonight, really? In late May?