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tomato experiment: transplant vs. direct seed

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I would like to ask folks to do an experiment for me this year.  I am currently seeking land, so I won't be able to do it myself.

Here is what I would like folks to do:

Plant three tomato plants of the same variety, but in three different ways, right next to each other (well, at least two feet apart).

A)  transplant - the traditional method

B)  Direct seed on the same day as the transplant

C)  Six weeks earlier (about the same day that you put the start tomatoes indoors), put a cloche in the soil (a clear 2 liter bottle with the bottom cut off will work well).  Leave the cap on.  One week after that, plant a tomato seed.  One week after that, take the cap off.  Take the cloche off the same day that you transplant A.

I predict that C will outperform A.  I predict that A and B will end up about tied. 




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rose macaskie


Joined: May 09, 2009
Posts: 2134
  its a good idea i can't really believe thaqt things will grow from seed in a few mounths if you set me tasks i might come to believe it evidence will oblige me to understand that it is true. rose
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I'm game to try this!

Last year A and B ended up about tied (not in size but in fruit production), when put in the same area, but planted at different times. 

'A's were larger plants but didn't end up making a whole lot of fruit over the course of the summer (these were indeterminate "amber colored" tomatoes). 

The Bs I planted later in the season and they stayed very small in stature but made so many tomatoes!  It looked funny, such a tiny plant with so much fruit.  They only had time to produce twice though. 

I transplanted another tomato in our raised beds built out of lots of rocks, and that tomato by itself got larger and made as much fruit as almost the other plants all combined.  The warmer soil really helps.  The raised beds themselves are located in a big sun trap of trees
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
last year in my greenhouse i put out transplants and direct seeds..at the same time..the transplants bore, the direct seeds did not...both were of the same varieties of plants..as the seed company  accidentally sent me the seeds rather than the plants and when i told them they told me to keep the seeds and they sent me the plants anyway..being too late to start them inside i put them in a few rows in the greenhouse and put the plants in at the same time..they had the same soil, same care, same water, etc...but the seeds never grew well and never did bear


Brenda

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Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Just to ensure the best methods for comparison: I have heard from two sources in the past week that tomato transplants do better if the first leaves are buried in the transplanting process, to tilt the balance in favor of roots vs. aerial portion and allow the deepest roots to be an inch or so deeper from the outset.

At first I thought it might be bad for a tomato plant to have its leaves buried, but it occurred to me that it's cousin the potato thrives on that sort of thing.

I would do this if I had space, but I can probably only accommodate four plants, and want at least two varieties.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
yup always helps to plant your tomato transplants deep, you can even lay them on their side in a hole and they'll sprout roots all along the stem..just like taters.
Aljaz Plankl


Joined: Feb 18, 2010
Posts: 320
    
    5
Paul, i'm in. I just have a question, why would you leave a cap on? I think it would better to have a good ventilation. Are you more into warming the soil?

For those who need to transplant and direct sowing is not possible - one of the best way to grow seedlings is wintesown method... www.wintersown.org

And for direct sowing i think the best method is to pick the best looking fruits and just lay them where you want them to grow next year... i'm doing this for the first time this year... thought - seeds overwinter, naturally ferment and sprout as fast as possible and in right time. i will aslo have a good number of plants to pick the best one or just let nature do it's thing.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Plankl wrote:
Paul, i'm in. I just have a question, why would you leave a cap on? I think it would better to have a good ventilation. Are you more into warming the soil?


Yes.

I think that if you put the seed in the ground four weeks early then you really need to warm the soil a bit or the seed won't germinate for, well, four more weeks! 

The cap is on when there is no seed.  Then the cap is on while the seed is in the soil, but not quite up yet.  The cap comes off at about the same time that the seedling should be popping up.



Aljaz Plankl


Joined: Feb 18, 2010
Posts: 320
    
    5
My thought is - not enough air.

Once the seed is in the ground i would remove the cap.

Alternative to bottles would be a row cover if you want to plant a bigger patch. I know, you decided to do it the way you mentioned it - go for it, sorry for all my thoughts...
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
I'll give it a try.  I was planning on trying to winter-sow some things, but I think winter is almost over here (though we could still get more snow).

Kathleen
                    


Joined: Mar 19, 2010
Posts: 63
Location: N.W. Arkansas
Too late, seedlings are already up and going.

However, I always start some inside, and direct sow some, about 3-4 weeks later.
The transplants always produce an earlier crop of peppers or tomatoes, but the direct sown, is the big producer, tough plant over the long haul.

It never occured to me to try direct sowing on the same day as inside sowing.

I do need to add, the heat of July and August, either kills or nearly kills the transplants that are loaded.  But the direct sown are just hitting production and can ride out the heat wave better, not tired already!


Talk to your plants!   If your plants talk to you...Run!
Aljaz Plankl


Joined: Feb 18, 2010
Posts: 320
    
    5
Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
I'll give it a try.  I was planning on trying to winter-sow some things, but I think winter is almost over here (though we could still get more snow).

Kathleen


If you still get a cold weather and a freeze here and there you are still on... Method can be used all year around in fact...
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
rose macaskie wrote:
  its a good idea i can't really believe thaqt things will grow from seed in a few mounths if you set me tasks i might come to believe it evidence will oblige me to understand that it is true. rose


Why can't you believe that, Rose? The little transplants that people buy to set in their garden are maybe 6 weeks old ... it can give one a head-start, but it can also involves shock from the transplanting.

I think the direct seeding will be better if the universe cooperates, but may lag if it is cold, if there is a damping-off fungus in the soil, etc. 

Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
we grow a lot of tomatoes here, so in turn every year we have a lot of volunteer tomato plants. and sometimes they come up in the most unusual places, places no one would ever think a tomato plant would or could grow.

anyways time and time again the plants that grow themselves are always more drought tolerant, they start a few weeks to a month or more later than the ones we start from seed in the greenhouse. Yet by the end of the year they yield the same( sometimes better), and grow just as big and healthy......with far less care.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Starting indoors failed this year. I'm seeding outside.

I won't have data for earliness, but last year's transplants couldn't have been better in terms of drought tolerance, once they were gradually weaned off of irrigation. But I have extensive concrete mulch, as I've mentioned before, so results on open ground would probably not be as good.

When I first mulched the tomato patch, there were bricks arranged in it. The soil under them looks much better after a year of thick mulch around the outside, and heavy root growth underneath. I moved the bricks to new spaces, and sowed my solanaceous veggies in those good seedbeds, after re-locating the slugs. One of the bricks had a salamander under it; some of the slugs were moved under that brick (which was the only one I left in place), the rest to the compost pile.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
I'll give it a try.  I was planning on trying to winter-sow some things, but I think winter is almost over here (though we could still get more snow).

Kathleen


Excellent!  Please take lots of pics!

Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
i have some seeds and we generally aren't able to put tomatos out in the garden un protected until after the full moon in June..that is why i put them in the greenhouse..but i could count back 4 weeks from our usual planting outside time and try your hot cap method for a few seeds and see how they fare compared to my greenhouse planted transplants and i also plan on putting some transplants right out into the garden this year ..outside of the greenhouse as well..this will be a "dare" in our area..as we tend to get frosts in June..we have actually had frosts every month of the year in some past years..incluing July and August !!
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
i heard a lady tell with a extremely fancy, expensive and about perfect organic fruit and vegetable farmers market how she plants her tomatoes.

she grows transplants a foot tall, plants them down so only 6 inches stick out, then later on she hills them!

no need for irrigation!
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Are the results in a different thread?
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit


Joined: Aug 08, 2010
Posts: 201
Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
I'll give it a try, too. 5 seeds per method and I will take pictures as well. I start my tomatoes in early April and transplant them on the 15th of May.


Life that has a meaning wouldn't ask for its meaning. - Theodor W. Adorno
Mike Turner


Joined: Sep 23, 2009
Posts: 154
Location: Upstate SC
    
    1
My earliest tomatoes are the ones that self-seed inside my cold frames each spring, beating all of the transplants that I plant in the same cold frames.
                    


Joined: Dec 09, 2010
Posts: 25
I'll try this too, with pictures and measurements.
                          


Joined: Jan 03, 2011
Posts: 25
Yes, where are the results from last year?  I would sure love to read those, as I am investigating tomato growing in a new climate (for me) -- and have not settled on what to do or not do..... gathering some lore here...... 
Rob Sigg


Joined: Feb 04, 2010
Posts: 710
Location: PA-Zone 6
Id like to hear results as well.


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Joined: Dec 04, 2010
Posts: 8
Location: Ozarks
I love the cloche idea.  What else can be used for a cloche?
Roger Merry


Joined: Nov 28, 2010
Posts: 109
Hi
Don't know how this fits with the experiment but I start tomato seeds on heat end of January, plant those out in the greenhouse end of Feb, and take side shoot cuttings of those middle of april, and plant rooted cuttings outside in May. The cuttings start flowering really quickly as they're the same age as the parents.

Roger 
Rob Sigg


Joined: Feb 04, 2010
Posts: 710
Location: PA-Zone 6
I have done similar to roger, only I used plants from the prior year. Just take cuttings before they get too old in the late summer, root them and then overwinter them inside. If you give them room they will grow big, if you pinch them back and give them a smaller pot they should stay a smaller size. Then replant them in the spring.
Roger Merry


Joined: Nov 28, 2010
Posts: 109
Blitz good idea I'll give that a try - assuming they're blight free of course. I was wondering about grafting some this year too. Really impressed by some of the dwarf bush varieties for long cropping season - thought I'd try grafting them to a large bush stock see what happens 
Rob Sigg


Joined: Feb 04, 2010
Posts: 710
Location: PA-Zone 6
I was very pleased with the principe borghese bush. Was very resistant to everything and prolific. Lasted for most of the season as well.
solomon martin


Joined: Jan 17, 2011
Posts: 102
    
    1
This has nothing to do with the experiment (which sounds like a great one) but my dad always used to stick a rusty nail in the root wad of a transplant, said they like the iron.  Anybody heard of this?
maikeru sumi-e


Joined: Dec 14, 2010
Posts: 312
Sol wrote:
This has nothing to do with the experiment (which sounds like a great one) but my dad always used to stick a rusty nail in the root wad of a transplant, said they like the iron.  Anybody heard of this?


I have. Some plants require more iron to thrive, such as roses and apple trees.


.
Pat Black


Joined: Dec 20, 2009
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
Sol wrote:
This has nothing to do with the experiment (which sounds like a great one) but my dad always used to stick a rusty nail in the root wad of a transplant, said they like the iron.  Anybody heard of this?


I don't think plants can uptake iron unless it is chelated, so the rusty nail is creating a hazard for the gardener while doing nothing for the plant. And yes, I've heard of people doing it too!

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I think a really active organic soil with plenty of humates (especially fulvic acid) could make the iron oxide available to the plants.


Idle dreamer

Pat Black


Joined: Dec 20, 2009
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
Ludi Ludi wrote:
I think a really active organic soil with plenty of humates (especially fulvic acid) could make the iron oxide available to the plants.


Sure, but since iron is a very common element in soil, humic acids would have plenty of iron to chelate even without the rusty nail. The rusty nail to me represents an unnecessary hazard that can send you out to get a tetanus shot without helping the plant. Any iron deficiencies I have seen in plants has been caused by soil issues other than physical lack of iron. It is the bioavailability that is relevant.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I think you're right, NMGrower. 

Ru Deana


Joined: Mar 12, 2011
Posts: 6
You could add a third type of experiment- break off a tomato branch, dip it into root stimulant, and bury it. I've wanted to try that for some time
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
You could add a third type of experiment- break off a tomato branch, dip it into root stimulant, and bury it. I've wanted to try that for some time


you dont even have to put rooting hormone, just take a branch( i do 2-3ft ones) stick about 6-10 inches in the soil. firm and keep wet. in a week it will start to perk up, in another itl be putting on growth.
                                    


Joined: Nov 08, 2010
Posts: 147
Location: Anoka Sand Plain, MN Zone 4/5, Sunset Zone 43
i've decided to try this experiment w/stupice and possibly a paste tomato.  i took some 5 gallon jugs from worked and sawed off the bottom for cloches.  i might get a couple grafted tomatoes from territorial seed company as well.
                    


Joined: Jan 19, 2011
Posts: 27
Location: Central Croatia
I start my tomato seeds inside in empty toilet rolls.  When I plant them out, I plant the whole cardboard roll with seedling so no transplant shock.  You just have to make sure you bury the entire roll though as any cardboard sticking out the ground will leech all the water out of the soil.

I have found that seeds planted direct when the soil is warmer do just as well as ones started earlier and you can avoid the hastles of heating them indoors.  The only benefit of starting seeds ealier is that you can save time during the warm months and it's easier to weed around a bigger transplant than worrying that you will weed out your precious tomato.

Also as a time saving tip, I glue carrot and beetroot seeds to toilet paper with flour and water (you can use the paper dividers as spacing guides).  In spring you simply lay out the lengths of paper and cover it with soil.  Don't let the chickens in though as they love to dig up all that fun toilet paper. 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Made my first planting of Amish Paste tomato seeds under cloches today:



 
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