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applestar
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Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

OK I'm so behind that my area's last average frost is coming up -- last week of April -- and most of my tomato seedlings/plants are still in Kcups. But this year's weather is so goofy that after this weekend, night time lows are actually IN THE 50's :roll:

I'm thinking I might just skip the uppotting and plant directly in their permanent locations, whether garden beds or containers.

So.... what are the possible pitfalls? Hmmm... I can think of:
- these are 4-6 inch plants so I'm not planting 12-18" plants deep for extra roots like I usually do ...maybe I can plan on hilling them later like potatoes?
- if they are attacked by fungal disease or pests, they don't have as many leaves to sacrifice and they don't have the rootmass/energy to outgrow the disease


What are extra care steps they might need? Spray them right away for fungal preventive? Normally I don't mulch early on to allow the soil to warm up, but the soil might already be warm enough this year. Maybe I should go ahead and paper and mulch and plant through?


...does anyone normally plant itty tomato plants?
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imafan26
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

I have planted seedlings that were not potted up. The will be smaller than plants in the ground the same age. I usually have phosphorus deficiencies showing on the plant but that clears up fast. Once in the ground, the plants usually catch up as long as they have not started to flower before I put them in. Once they flower, they grow, but the leaves are not as large and the productions is a little less.
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pepperhead212
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

Why not just wait a little longer to plant them, until they are up to normal size? It won't take that long, and if they are going to be in colder temps outside (even with the warmer than average temps), they should grow faster indoors anyway.
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

Potentially crazy and UNTRIED idea:

Spray paint a bunch of bricks black and half bury then around the plants to act as a heat sink and bump up the soil temp. Build some boxes out of 1x2 or something, cover with clear plastic / vinyl shower curtain or even the drafty window covering sheet you shrink to fit with a hair dryer and pop those over the plants and force a warmer micro climate around the plants so they grow faster. Thinking here is to force little pockets of June into late April.

When it warms up and the plants have caught up, harden them off.
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Taiji
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

I don't really know what are the pitfalls or ramifications of planting small plants, but I set out 3 the other day that weren't much bigger than yours. Seems like it might be an advantage in that they'll have more time in their permanent location for growth.

Every year I strive to plant my tomato plants out about 5 to 6 weeks after starting from seed, but, I always start them too soon, then the plants are too big. I did it again this year, but not quite as bad as before!

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applestar
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

I'm not kidding when I say I'm behind -- They have to be Uppotted or planted. I've even RE-potted some of them in same Kcups, shoving the escaped roots back in :oops: The roaming and resident earthworms have been fertilizing them just enough.

They are somewhat stunted in the sense that they would have grown ever so much bigger had they been planted in larger containers a week ago, but are still not defective and are poised to grow as soon as they are given the root-room -- like miniature versions of themselves.

Thanks for all the ideas and encouragements! My mind is a-buzz with ideas now :-()

I like the idea of pre-warming the ground, and also thinking containers would warm up faster. So I might start with dwarfs and basket types while getting the ground warming.

Planning on creating a sheltered hardening off station -- more difficult to do because these are in tiny containers that will dry out easily. I'm also thinking in-ground planted ones could covered with sun-protective cover -- mass or individual -- that will also serve to harden off at the same time -- coldframe-like.

I was reminded to watch out for cutworms which are not as much if a problem with larger, toughened stem plants -- I have a bunch of used bamboo skewers for this purpose. :D
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

If you don't want to re-pot and let them grow for a couple more weeks, I would still keep them inside under the lights. Put them outside when the soil temp is still a little too cool and they will not grow until it warms up anyway. I plant mine out in the first week of May weather permitting and if the soil temp is above 65F. Most all my seedlings are in the 10-12 inch range by that time. Tangled roots are OK, just make sure you spread them out when planting. Shake the soil off and fluff up the root ends. Some will even dunk the roots in water to untangle them.

Folks around here who plant small seedlings as early as they can do not get tomatoes any earlier that me because they just sit there waiting for the warmth anyway. No need to re-pot, just wait for warmer weather and you will be fine.
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applestar
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

But, but EVERYBODY is planting.... LOL -- yeah I know what you mean. :> Oh, what to do.... :bouncey:
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Java
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

I am in central NJ, i thought May 15 was the last frost day? Do you usually plant 2 weeks early?

PaulF
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

Here in the Great Plains of Nebraska the record late frost is June 12 (1898)..so I take a big chance and plant a month early. In 50 years of gardening the latest frost in my gardens was May 15 and that was in the 1970s so May 10 is pretty safe.
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applestar
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

Sounds good, Paul. 50 years, huh? That would give you a really good insight and feel for the season.

Late/last frost is influenced by different factors that affect the local climate.

Java, are you close to the Delaware River? Delaware is tidally influenced, so anywhere close has milder winter and earlier spring than the interior and the hills. I know someone who lives in Trenton who can start planting tomatoes in spring by mid-April. Partly the urban location, too, but she lives close to the canal and then the river is only a few blocks away. ...Anywhere in NJ, once you are closer to the shore, the ocean provides the warming effect.

I live just off of the Pine Barrens, and the Barrens creates a pocket of cold that delays the last frost and brings earlier first frost in this area. It also means colder winter.
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Java
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

Applestar, We are right in the middle of everything. We live near New Brunswick in an apt complex. So, i can only do container growing.

But i am thinking of putting my seedlings out during the day for next week as weather is predicted to be warm.

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applestar
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

Be sure to protect them from too much sun and dehydration in the beginning. They can get sunburned in 30 min to 1 hour in the beginning, just like people. :wink:

For me, the next few days are ideal for hardening off my seedlings, overcast and partly cloudy days and not too cold at night. (Watch out for too much direct sun on days when the sun is out). A little sprinkle won't hurt. 8) By the time those storms arrive, they might be toughened enough, but I will watch out for the winds and heavy rains.
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SQWIB
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

I'm a few miles from the river, and my old method of planting was mothers Day, the last few years I planted earlier, our last frost is supposedly April 15th but historically April 6th whatever that means.
Anyhow I planted everything but the Basil on April 11th after checking out the 10 day. Most days lows were over 45, barely, yeah I know a bit cold but wasn't waiting anymore.
The temps lows were 42-44 at the lowest a few days. My tomatoes are doing fine as well as the eggplants and some peppers but not all of the peppers are happy. Some of the peppers are not liking the cooler temps but are doing OK.

SQWIB
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

lol just measured with google maps 1.07 miles to the river

imafan26
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

Cheer up Apple, you are still ahead of me. I finally took out the corn stalks left over from October in March, and I got rid of a lot of weeds, but they keep coming back.
So far all I have planted this year are
1 eggplant- looking really sad since I let the fruit stay on too long
String beans - I just saw the first flowers yesterday
Chinese (snow) peas also just started flowering
1 supersteak tomato on 4/10/17

Nothing but weeds still in the main garden.
The ginger is starting to sprout. I did not harvest it yet.
I have a bunch of cuttings that have rooted that need to be potted up.
I did take a few more cuttings yesterday.
This morning I planned on weeding and it was raining. Now, I have lost the impetous to go out there and try again, even though the rain has stopped.

The last seeds I planted on 4/12 was not the best time of the moon as it was on the edge of the barren period. I also was not planting root crops. Call me superstitious but for whatever reason only about 1/3 of the seeds have germinated at this point and the ones that did, did not germinate well.

The 8 foot citrus trees in my community garden is buried in vines.

I have even less of an excuse since I don't have winter. I just did not do it.
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xtgold
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Re: Tips and pitfalls of planting undersized tomato plants?

warm ground temps are the key.
Sometimes you are better off waiting until the ground temps are warm or risk stunting the plants.



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