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My Tomato plants seem to be coming along quite well:

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The tallest (shown) is ~10cm tall above the soil and most of them are in square 6×6×6cm cardboardish pots (there are others off-camera, in varying numbers per pot). The 'target' pots (and only other pots available) I wish to have them finally grow in are circular, 21cm in diameter and 19cm tall.

Are these tomato plants ready to move in to my larger pots, if not when?
And how many should I put in each pot?

Oh, and in case that matters, the box tells me they are of the Gardeners Delight variety.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Those plants look good. They need to be transplanted.

  • You should put one plant per 'target' pot.
  • When transplanting, handle them by the leaves, not by the stem: if you tear a leaf, the plant will grow a new one, if you break a stem, you've killed the plant.
  • Gently separate the roots.
  • Plant them deeper in the new pot than they are now. Bury the stem up to the first set of leaves, if your new pot is deep enough (it should be).

I'm not sure what you mean by "finally grow": are you planning to transplant from the 21cm pots to an outdoor garden, or are you planning on harvesting fruit from plants in those pots? If the former, then they are decent to use for growing to transplant size, if perhaps a little big (see @kevinsky's answer). If the latter, they are far too small. See the discussion in comments below this answer to get an idea of the size of the roots that a tomato plant can have -- or see Fig. 72 and 73 on this page. Most of the roots are in an area 60cm deep by 120cm diameter, with some going further if they can.

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From that site, the pepper's page indicates peppers can have a similar root size, and I had a few successful (by my inexperienced measure, anyway) pepper plants in those same pots last year. However, they were root bound come winter. I'm really just hoping for similar results with these tomatoes. –  DMA57361 Mar 13 '12 at 17:46
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For what it's worth, I have usually planted my tomatoes somewhat closely -- 18-24" apart in the ground because of lack of space. Last year the garden expanded and I planted a batch that ended up being more like 3-4' apart, and the spaced-out plants outperformed the close ones by a wide margin. Overall yield might have been a wash (fewer plants), but the extra spacing (good air circulation) kept down disease a bit, so I think wide spacing is a winner. –  bstpierre Mar 13 '12 at 19:33

If you transplant from 6 x 6 cm pot to a 21 cm diameter pot the plants will put all their energy into growing new roots. This will retard the growth of new leaves, particularly if you keep them indoors. For many gardeners there are still a few weeks to go or more before tender seedlings are ready to go outside.

If you are able to find an intermediate pot size of around 8 to 10 cm in diameter this should tide them over until they are ready to go outside. A fruitful place to look for new pots is your plastic recycle bin. Even a one litre waxed paper container used for ice cream might do the job.

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+1 for roots vs leaves, and another +1 if I could for mentioning the recycle bin. Half-gallon cardboard milk containers are a great size; saw the tops off so the bottom is 5" high and drill holes for drainage. If you don't leave them outside in the garden to blow around and get rained on after you transplant, they'll last at least 2 or 3 seasons. 32oz yogurt tubs are also good. –  bstpierre Mar 13 '12 at 17:14
    
Hmmm, I've probably got a plastic milk jug or two waiting for recycling. I'll see if I can hack some up for a mid-size pot as the jump between pot sizes was concerning me a bit. –  DMA57361 Mar 13 '12 at 17:53

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