This is my third blog for the #plantalong2020 series and hopefully if you’ve got to this point, you have some tomatoes ready to pot on! If you haven’t planted your seeds yet, no worries, start with this blog for sowing seeds. The guide below can also be applied to veg that does better being grown indoors to start with; generally the Mediterranean plants such as:
- Courgettes (I’ll be sowing courgette seeds shortly with a blog to follow)
The really key thing here is how you handle your little seedlings. After having got them to germinate, you don’t want to accidentally damage them now with heavy handling. Never handle seedlings by the stem – pick them up by their leaves. The stems are very fragile and you’ll probably end up killing the poor, wee plant!
Pot your seedlings on once they are large enough to handle and have grown ‘true leaves’. These are the second set of leaves that have the serrated shape of tomato leaves. I am potting mine on as the grow their true leaves.
The picture below shows seedlings ready to be potted on. You can see the true leaves are clearly a different shape to the first seed leaves.
I use a teaspoon to carefully wriggle the seedlings free – do take care because the spoon can be sharp for tiny roots. You could also use the top, rounded end of a pencil or a dibber to loosen the seedling from the soil.
If your seedling has grown ‘leggy’ (with a stem longer than a couple inches) you can plant a bit deeper in the pot and new roots will grow from that part of the stem. Seedlings can grow leggy if they haven’t had enough light so try moving your seed tray to a sunnier windowsill if they seem to be struggling (south or west facing are best if possible).
Place the pots in a tray and water from the bottom, by adding about a centimetre of water to be sucked up. When the compost changes colour it is well watered. Now you will leave your seedling to establish in this pot for a couple of weeks before potting on again. We will pot on a few times before planting outside in the veg patch (or into their final containers) to help them grow into strong plants. It’s too cold in March to have tomato plants out, so keep your pots on the windowsill or in the greenhouse.
Don’t forget to water regularly! It’s often easier to water from the bottom up by placing in a dish and adding water to that for the pots to suck up. Alternatively, give them a good spritz regularly to keep the soil moist. Don’t let the soil dry out. The seedlings are really delicate at the moment and need love. If they do droop, give them a good water from the bottom up and hopefully they will perk up.