Today was the day for pricking out the tomatoes from their seed trays and potting them into little individual pots. They were sewn in seed trays about 5 weeks ago. They took nearly three weeks to germinate which is a little on on the slow side but it was particularly cold when they went into the cold frame. But whenever the sun came out it heated up nicely and eventually they started to pop up all over the place. Tomato seeds need to be between 18 and 21 degrees in order to germinate so the cold frame was invaluable. Otherwise you could buy some kind of heating system but it doesn't seem to be necessary for sewing on a small scale.
We sewed the tomato seeds in little rows about an inch apart. Organic potting compost was put into little trays and was watered. Then we made very small little indents in the potting compost with our fingers about an inch apart in all directions, placed a seed in each one them and covered them with about a quarter inch of compost.
Once they reach the size of the tomato plant shown above they are ready to graduate to bigger pots. They could even have been done when a little smaller but we weren't organised enough!
In general you pick out the strongest tomatoes as these will probably do the best in the long run. Here are our little rejects. We couldn't bring ourselves to kill them just yet so if anyone wants to rescue them feel free to take them :)
The best thing to do is water the seed tray before you start so the soil around the roots will stick together when being moved. Then you just stick your fingers in around the little roots and scoop them out and put them into 3 inch pots full of potting compost which has not been watered yet. When they are nice and snug give them plenty of water to settle them in. Then it's back into the greenhouse with them. Once they have about 5 pairs of leaves they can be planted into the ground. The idea of potting them into small pots first is to make sure they build a compact, strong frame work.
As we have planted 4 different varieties of tomatoes we have put different colours stickers on each variety so we won't get them mixed up. We didn't do this last year so it was pot luck as to what type of tomato came up where. We'll be giving away at least half of our little seedling when they are a bit bigger as it is as easy to do twice as many and then we can spread them around to friends and family.
I'm sure there are different ways of planting tomatoes which will work fine so let me know if you have any tips to pass on.
Mmmmm, I can smell the tomatoes already......