Transplant seedlings outdoors after all danger of frost has passed, and night temperatures are above 45°F. Although some plants may survive temperatures between 33 and 45 degrees, they risk frost bite damage to the leaves and their growth rate is greatly slowed down until warm up.
Here at Krow Acres we recommended that after you've purchase your plants, if the temperatures are going to be on the colder side or frost is still a possibility, store your plants in their containers in a safe place off the ground in your garage, shed, basement or other protected area until you feel confident they will not be damaged from cold exposure after planting. As long as they are provided with moisture, and receive an adequate amount of sunshine or artificial light, they will be perfectly happy until you plant them. For those folks anxious to get an early start, after planting you can protect your plants from the cold by covering them using row covers, or plastic containers (Like plastic Milk jugs) with the bottoms removed.
Tomato Seedlings up to 12 inches Tall: Dig a small hole large enough in diameter for the root ball and deep enough to bury the seedling up to its first set of bottom leaves - Some folks even remove the lower leaves leaving only the top two to three layers of leaves. Pour a small hand full of compost or worm casting soil blend into the hole (stir compost or castings into the soil), then insert the seedling. Fill the hole with the remaining soil and gently compact the soil by gently compressing it. Tomato Seedlings More Than 12 inches Tall: Since the roots will grow along the entire length of the stem, dig a small trench long enough to bury the length of the stem and approximately 5 inches deep. Pour a small hand full of compost or worm casting soil blend into the trench (stir the compost or castings into the soil) then lay the seedling in the trench on its side and very gently bend the upper portion of the seedling upward so that it can be buried up to its first set of bottom leaves. If you have a seedling with many layers of leaves, remove one to two layers of the bottom leaves - in fact when working with tall plants, some folks will remove all of the bottom layer leaves and leave just the top two to three layers of leaves. Fill the trench with the remaining soil and gently compact the soil by gently compressing it. Don’t worry if the seedling is not standing perfectly vertical, once it gets a taste of sunshine it will straighten up. Seedlings Other Than Tomatoes: Dig a small hole large enough in diameter for the root ball and deep enough to bury the seedling up to the base of its top root line, unless otherwise noted. This is important, since some plants will not tolerate being planted too deep. Pour a small hand full of compost or worm casting soil blend into the hole (stir the compost or castings into the soil), then insert the seedling. Fill the hole with the remaining soil and gently compact the soil by gently compressing it. For Container Growing: Use the largest container possible. Fill the container 1-2 inches deep with coarse gravel (optional), mix in a 1 inch deep layer of compost or worm casting blend with the potting mix and add enough to the container to bring the plant up to the proper planting depth. Gently hold the plant at the proper depth approximately one inch below the top edge of the container, filling in the space between the roots and container bottom with additional compost or worm casting blend potting mix. Bury tomato seedlings up to the first set of bottom leaves, bury other plants up to the base of their top root line, unless otherwise noted . Fill the container with additional potting mix and gently compact the mix by gently compressing it. Although many plants do very well in containers, please keep in mind that as a general rule nothing can compare to the growth profile of plants whose unconfined roots are allowed to grow and expand within mother earth as needed.
Keep in mind that due to their limited growing space and using up moisture and nutrients, closer monitoring of moisture and nutrient control may be necessary for premium care. For plants that may tend to be spindly or have a weak stem, gently trellis the seedling using string and a stick or container stake.
Rainwater, whether fallen naturally, or used from collected uncontaminated barrels, tubs, or other collection device is best. If you are using “city” or so called “tap” water, it usually works just fine as does water from a well, but be aware of any chemicals that may have been added since your plants may have a negative reaction to them. Also, city water may tend to be rather expensive and you will want to take care to conserve during drought periods. Pond water is not recommended if it has been chemically treated. Remove the chlorine from your water by letting it sit in an open container for 24 hrs.
Water early morning rather than evening or night to avoid standing water or stagnant damp conditions, that can attract water loving diseases and pests.
Use sweat hoses, drip lines, irrigation trenches, water can, or other method to keep the water near the base of the plant. Not only will this help conserve water, but also minimize weed growth in the surrounding area.
Avoid wetting the plant’s leaves to minimize mold, mildew, and other pathological diseases.
Foliar feed (Wetting/spraying the leaves) only when the leaves will have ample time to dry.
Do not over water, allow the top of the soil to almost dry out, the under soil will still be moist.
(Moisture control and proper watering at times is more of an "art" learned from experience,
rather than a science or timed application since a plant's moisture and nutrient uptake will vary daily from plant to plant depending upon it's needs. Perform crop/plant inspections on a regular basis)
Consistent watering on a timely basis is best (Rather than one good soaking), and will help prevent tomato skins from cracking.
Depending upon how diligent you are at following the organic standards, city, well or any water that has been chemically treated or corrupted in any way should be tested and monitored for unapproved additives or for surplus amounts that are outside the approved organic standard.
Feeding & Weeding:
Fertilize with a general 3-3-3 or 2-3-1 organic fertilizer as instructed on the manufacturers container. "Organic" fertilizers will generally have lower numbers to identify the nutrient ratio than synthetic fertilizers. i.e 12-12-12 (Synthetic) vs. 2 - 2 - 2 (Organic)
If you’re wondering what those three number mean, just remember Leaves, Roots and Shoots.
The first number is the percentage of Nitrogen (N) in the fertilizer and it mostly affects the leafy part of a plant, second is the percentage of Phosphorous (P) which affects root growth, and the third is Potassium (K) which affects stem growth.
Depending upon their growth cycle (flowering, fruiting, etc.) different plant varieties may require different proportions of NPK at their varying growth stage. For example, 3-3-3 fertilizer might work great for starting tomato seedlings, but as the blossoms start to bloom and those baby tomatoes start to grow a 0-3-3 works better since the tomato plant has different nutritional needs as its fruits start to develop.
Save your eggshells, most plants particularly tomatoes love calcium, and it helps prevent blossom end rot. Put your eggshells in a paper bag and let them dry out. Crush your eggshells as fine as you can, a food processor works great, and side dress your plants with the pulverized eggshells. Here’s how, once blossoming begins and being careful not to damage the plant’s roots, on two sides of each plant approximately 6-8 inches way from its stem, dig a small trench 2 inches wide, by 8 inches long, and 3-4 inches deep. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of crushed eggshells along each trench and cover with soil.
Mulch, Mulch, and more Mulch. Collect your grass clippings and spread them around the base of your plants, grass clippings that have not been treated with petrochemical fertilizers or pesticides are best. Not only will the clippings smother out weeds, they will help keep moisture in, the ground warm, and feed our friend the earthworm who will turn that mulch into some beautiful humus. Don’t worry about your sweat hose or drip line, they will work just fine buried under the grass clippings.
Kill weeds by smothering with a plastic cover, mulch, or cultivating and turning them under the topsoil when they first emerge and are young and tender. Weeds that have been turned under when green add additional nitrogen to the soil and are great earthworm food. Weeds should be turned under before they go to seed, otherwise you will be planting additional weeds seeds. Don’t worry if you also happen to turn under some dried brown grass clippings, in addition to being super earthworm food, it will be broken down and turned into some needed carbon.
Container grown plants will require additional supplemental feeding since their roots are confined to the boundaries of the container. And, in addition to being grown in a sterilized potting medium, most of the beneficial critters found in the open garden will not be present.
Feeding your garden shouldn’t be limited to only the growing season. During the summer months add your green grass clippings to your garden as a Nitrogen supplement, and in the fall pile up those dried autumn leaves in your garden to provide a Carbon supplement. If you are ambitious, go ahead and turn those leaves and clippings under the soil by tilling or shovel to decompose (composted) over the winter. However if you don’t have time in the fall, wait until springtime comes around and the ground has thawed, turn the leaves and any clippings under by shallow tilling (less than 6 inches or less) or shovel. By then some beneficial leaf mold will have formed and help compost everything well in time for the planting season.
More than likely you won’t be able to add too many dried leaves or grass clippings to your garden, since once mother earth and her friendly ban of critters get a taste of your yard waste she will consume it and process it into that wonderful humus as fast as you can feed her.
Compost is one of the best all natural feed and fertilizer that you can feed to you soil and plants, and if it contains worm castings its even better. Start a compost pile in your garden, compost bin, or purchase one of those composting tumblers, and fill it with your kitchen, yard and garden waste. You can add just about anything to a compost pile, except meat products, oil, dairy products, or diseased plants-Compost is great stuff!
Add the composted material to your garden anytime. About the only thing that can compare to compost, and may even be better, are worm castings or worm tea, which is produced by mother earth’s greatest friend---the earthworm.
It is our opinion that Crop Rotation is the Single Most Important activitiy you can do to move towards a successful garden!
Avoid planting any variety of the same plant family in the same location season after season. All plants are greedy and consequently will consume and deplete the particular nutrients that it needs.
Disease and other pests that make a particular plant its home will become established and thrive. The importance of crop rotation cannot be overstressed, since some diseases may establish themselves and contaminate an area to the point where nothing can be grown in that particular area for a number of years!
The inputs that gardeners and farmers provide to their crops such as NPK, Iron, Magnesium, Carbon, etc. don’t come close to the number of different nutrients, microbes, etc. that mother earth provides, crop rotation helps replace some of the depleted nutrients.
Crops planted in the same location without crop rotation generally will have less yield, or produce an inferior crop the following year.
In small gardens, a rotation of just a few feet between locations can have an impact on your continued gardening success-Better yet, try planting something new next season.
If space is limited, try building a number of small raised beds and rotate the crops between beds.
When container growing, if you are going to plant the same variety or plant family, discard the old potting mix, thoroughly wash and if possible sanitize or sterilize the container, and fill it with new potting mix. (Hint: Make a Compost pile using the old potting mix, and use it next season)