May 7, 2017

Transplant Growth

It’s the beginning of May and yesterday while I was in the basement watering the tomatoes and peppers, I noticed how ready they are to be planted outside and thought I would give you a glimpse of what they look like.

A little back story first. Towards the end of January I decided to start my tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, and ground cherries from seed in my basement grow room. After determining how many of them I would need to fill the spaces in the outdoor garden, I planted them in red solo cups with the intention of translating them to larger pots as they got bigger and pruning them multiple times to strengthen them before they get transplanted outside. Why would I do this you ask? Sounds like a lot of work you say. Well I’ve seen others online do this and end up with very large harvests and multiple harvests at that. Being that I am in a colder climate, it made sense to at least give it a try. And yes, it has been a lot of work. But I growing this is something I enjoy and so it wasn’t as rough as it sounds.

Starting the seeds in red solo cups, I let them grow until they were almost the same height of the cup itself. After doing an initial pruning in this cup, I allowed it to regrow to the same height and then transplanted them to two gallon nursery pots.

Pots Used For Transplants

I will say this, I ended up with some unexpected results. The peppers have turned out exactly how I envisioned them. They have quite a strong stem and then fork into a ”Y” shape. These in turn have branched out and are even flowering. Initially I was deflowering the plant, but the flowers have grown so numerous that I can’t keep up anymore. Here is what one of my Bull Nose Pepper plants looks like.

Bull Nose Pepper

The ground cherries have also branched out well and have formed strong trunks. It too has been flowering and putting out fruit. If you have not tried a ground cherry, they have a very interesting taste. To me, it initially tastes like a pineapple, but then tapers off into more of a sweet cherry tomato taste. I have grown very addicted to these and last year their fruit never made it out of the garden. I planted four this year in hopes that some may make it at least into my kitchen.

Ground Cherry Transplant

The tomatillo plants are also doing fairly well. They are strong and standing tall. Last year I had a single tomatillo spread to cover almost an entire 4ft x 5ft bed. It had re-rooted multiple times and produced over 9lbs of tomatillos.

Tomatillo Transplant

Finally, where things did not go as expected. My tomatoes have grown in a very weird way. I will say that it could just be the way that I pruned it, or maybe that is just how these types of tomatoes like to grow. Where things went different is with my Sheboygan Paste Tomatoes. During the pruning, I cut the center just like I did with the peppers to try and make them fork. They did fork, but turned into something similar to Medusa”s head. They are not very appealing to look at currently, but my plan is to let each branch root and essentially grow multiple plants from one. Due to how they have grown, it is difficult to take them out for a good picture, so I apologize for the quality, but this is what they look like.

Tomato Transplant

Looking a little closer, you can see how the main stem branches out in different directions. This is good if I want those side stems to root and grow into a plant. Right now though, this is a problem. Those side shoots are getting heavier as they grow. I have pruned them multiple time, but just yesterday I had one that was so heavy, the two side shoots split the main stem in half! Needless to say, he did not make it…

Tomato ‘Y’ Stem

Right now it is still far to cold for these plants to be moved outside. In fact, tonight we are supposed to get a frost and I was forced to cover the plants that are braving the cold already. In a few weeks it will be time to harden these guys off and send them out into the wild. Generally I shoot for Memorial Day weekend if the weather looks positive. Good thing, because the indoor garden needs a break as it is pretty full.

So far, I would consider the early start and pruning experiment a success overall. I will most likely do the tomatoes differently next year and hopefully you can learn from this experience as well. If you live somewhere were your season isn’t very long, I hope you give this a try.

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About the Author

Geoff has been growing plants and vegetables consistently for the last 6 years and actively experiments with, and writes about, all aspects of gardening.

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