A Black Thumb’s Guide to Growing Tomatoes Part 3 – The Final Transplant
You may have read over the past couple of weeks the first two parts in my 3 part series – A Black Thumb’s Guide to Growing Tomatoes – Planting the Seeds, and Transplanting Your Seedlings. Finally, I am ready to share with you the final step in your journey to having your own tomato babies! I feel the world is a more sustainable place just thinking about it!
If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2, you really must. Growing your own vegetables, fruit and herbs is really only a small contribution to a more sustainable future, but every little bit counts! There are a bunch more benefits to growing your own produce as well, saving money, great exercise, and reducing food waste to name a few. Tomatoes thrive in the Australian climate as they LOVE the heat and sun, provided they are watered enough, so they make a great choice when starting to grow your own food.
So without further ado, please read and enjoy Part 3 – The Final Transplant.
The Final Transplant
You will need:
Larger outdoor pots – one for each seedling. They need to have good drainage wholes, as as much as tomato plants love moisture, if they stay too moist they will suffer. Some people prefer to transplant their plants directly into the ground, however as we are renting, I chose a more portable option for the time being.
More soil, enough to fill each pot. Again, a nutrient rich soil, such as the same type as I mentioned in my previous posts, is a winner.
Some more plant starter to help them adapt to their new environment.
Before any actual transplanting takes place, you will need to weather your plants. Weathering refers to the act of gradually introducing them to their new environment. You will need to introduce them to the heat, the sun, and the wind of the outside world a little bit at a time, otherwise they may suffer from shock if planted straight into the direct sun. When they reach approximately 2 feet tall (or about 50cm) they will be ready for weathering.
Start by putting them outside in a sunny spot for a couple of hours or so a day, then bringing them back in at night time. Build this up over a week or two, until you are leaving them outside nearly all day.
If it is particularly windy, you will need to support your plants with something around the pots to stop them from toppling over. They get quite top heavy at this point!
When you have worked up to leaving them outside all day, you are ready for the final transplant.
Similar to last week’s post, you want to reduce the time the plants are between pots to as little as possible. A warm, sunny day is the best time to do it.
Like first time they were transplanted, you want to place them quite deeply into the pot. You may need to prune the lower couple of branches to do so, however don’t despair! This part of the plant will now be used to provide extra nutrients through the hairs on the stem, as the upper part of the plant grows even larger. I planted mine with the stakes from a Tomato Trainer Cage that I got from Bunnings, and secured them with staking clips. Once they get a bit bigger I will assemble the whole cage around them.
Fill them to the lowest branches with soil, making sure that their is no soil left over on the leaves, as this can spread blight. Clip the stalk of the plant to the stake.
Finally you are ready to choose a place to leave them outside! If the weather is a steady 21-29degrees celcius, choose a place that gets full sun all day. If you live in Queensland like me, however, I recommend you choose somewhere with partial shade as being in the sun all day during the hottest days in summer (30degrees +) can cause the plants to wilt (as I discovered in my trial and error!).
I have also read about people who bring them inside during the hottest months, or leave them on their porches or verandahs. This is definitely an option if you are living in a hot area.
After a few weeks, you will start to notice little flowers growing on your plants! As tomatoes are self-pollinating (meaning the flowers have both male and female parts), they take care of pollination themselves and do not need to be manually pollinated. However, if you want to help up the ante, so to speak, you can give them a hand by giving the flowers a little shake every now and then.
And that’s it! Now you sit back, and wait for your flowers to grow into juicy tomatoes. The flowers will look like they are withering and dying at first, but don’t panic.
From this withered flower, a little tomato will start to ripen! It’s quite amazing to see.
The tomatoes will continue growing until they are the right size for their conditions. I have yielded from this plant some tiny tomatoes that had ripened while still very small, and also some more normal sized ones – I think that is probably due to the fact that I wasn’t very consistent with my watering in the beginning, and I discovered that this can be really important when trying to get some healthy fruit. Watering daily in the warmer months is definitely recommended, but only a little at a time.
Those last two photos are from my phone. I’d returned from the UK to find some big and juicy babies nearly ripe for the picking, and a tiny tomato that had already fallen off the plant! I snatched it up before the possums found it.
There you have it! A basic guide to growing your own tomatoes from seeds. I found it so, so rewarding to eat these delicious, juicy fruits once they were ready!
If you are looking for something with a bit more detail and information, especially about caring for the plants when the growing and transplanting process is over, head over to The Country Basket, she really knows her stuff!
So! What do you think I should plant next?