Chickenfeet55
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How/When Start Tomatoes in a Short Growing Season?

Hey so I have a couple questions.
I live in northern Canada and was told march 31st was the day to plant tomato seeds. I planted them and now they are about a month old. The average last frost date is June 1st. It could very well be before or after this date, we have a very short season. The tomatoes in question are Beefsteak. By the time I can transfer them into the ground they will be almost 2 months. Is this too old to be transferring them? I did not expect them to grow so fast they are about a foot tall and quite thick.
My next question is, the leaf branches on some of them are starting to almost wilt downwards. I move the plants in and out every day as the day time temps are nice and the night temps drop below freezing. Is the wilting due to environmental stress of moving or is there something else going on? Perhaps overcrowding? (I have them planted in a pro-mix soil with some compost and a little bit of worm castings, i've only fertilized once a mild dose when i noticed the flowers)
Which brings me to my last question, the tomatoes putting out flowers. I've read and read about this and it's different everywhere. Should i top the plant or only the flowers. OR should i allow them to grow knowing they probably won't be pollinated by anything at this point.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: How/When Start Tomatoes in a Short Growing Season?

Pictures always help!

Mar 31 seems reasonable for a June 1 frost date, 8-9 weeks ahead is what I usually figure. So no 8 weeks is not too late to transplant, it is typical. But that means it hasn't quite been a month yet since your seeds sprouted. They are growing VERY fast to get to what you are describing in a month. That sounds (as well as I can tell without pix!) like what mine would look like at the end of the eight weeks.

I don't know about overcrowding, since you didn't say anything about what size pots they are in. At this point, being that big, they should be up-potted to containers that are maybe 6" wide by 6" deep. (ONE plant to a container that size!) Every time you transplant them, you should bury them deeper than they were before. Tomatoes will grow roots all along the buried stem, so it increases the root system. And for your situation now, it helps shorten them up. So the deeper pots/containers you can find the better (not wider, just deeper)

Does your pro-Mix have a bunch of fertilizer in it? You may have over done a bit adding compost, worm castings and fertilizer to something that already has fertilizer. When I use potting soil with Miracle-Gro (or whatever) built in to it, I don't add anything else. About the time they would need fertilizing, they get up-potted into fresh potting mix with more M-G, so I still don't add any.

DON'T "top" your plant. You will be cutting off the growing points. You can remove the flowers if you want, to encourage focusing on vegetative growth. Or you can leave them. They won't make tomatoes if the plant can't support them. Tomatoes are self-pollinated / wind pollinated. If you want it to start making tomatoes, after it has flowers on it, just gently shake the plant to simulate breezes. Shaking your indoor plants a bit is a good thing to do anyway. Encourages the stems to toughen up a bit, gets them better prepared for life outdoors.
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