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Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

...by using recycled coffee cups to maximize root size.

From Melissa's member blog last May:

Every year I start my tomatoes in February. I don't have a south facing
window--I am totally reliant on shop
lights
to help them grow. But instead of being leggy, my tomatoes
are crazy drought-proof beasts that take over the world. Last year, my
Matt's Cherry tomato grew about 9 feet wide, and the neighbours had to
cut it back just to figure out where the fence was so they could park
their car. That's because the root ball was deep enough to support it.
My secret is using recycled coffee cups to help gradually build up the
root ball.

Step 1. Get everyone you know (and their office) to collect coffee cups.
Sort them by size, because you will want to start with the small ones.
Poke drainage holes.
poke drainage holes
Step 2. Remove your leggy tomato seedling from the cellpack (I plant all
my seeds in cell packs recycled from past years, because most
greenhouses won't recycle them), and place at the bottom of a small cup.
See the first leaves at the bottom? Carefully pinch those off.
remove first leaves
Step 3. Bury the tomato up to where it branches, stem and all. Around
the root ball, you can use compost to give it a healthy start, but when
you are burying the stem, a soil-less potting mix is best. (I prepare my
potting mix by soaking it first, to make sure it has absorbed plenty of
water.) This is how deep you should plant it.

Roots will grow out of the part of the stem that you burried, to become
part of the ever-growing rootball.
Step 4. When the tomato grows up out of the pot again, remove it from
the small cup, put it in the bottom of a medium sized cup, and bury it
up to the branch again. (In these stages, you can make a doughnut of
compost around the outer edges of the cup, and use potting mix for the
rest.)

Repeat until you have a root ball as deep as extra large coffee cup. You
can keep moving them up into larger planters, but by XL I run out of
space to keep all my seedlings.
XL
Using coffee cups also makes it easy to give away tomatoes to friends
and neighbours. Share the heirloom love.

When it's finally safe to plant everything outdoors, I'll show you how
to use drought-proof planting to make your tomatoes (and other plants)
survive between rains without the need for watering.

Tags: growing, leggy, seedlings, tomatoes

Views: 203

Replies to This Discussion

Wow, totally just re-potted my seedlings into larger containers and now I'm glad I did! I just did it because the seedlings were flopping over but still too small to go in the ground.

I'm growing Rutgers tomatoes for the first time.
Great tutorial! This is definitely going into my 'lessons learned' rotation for 2011! :)
Another lesson for great tomatoes: pruning! Does anyone else do this? I've pruned my cherry tomato and have already seen a difference!

Love the suggestion!

Would this work for peppers? 

I have 4" 5wk old Heirlooms (sophie's choice and striped roman) I staked them with cut skewers and old bag ties...I am going to try this method though. Wondering about the peppers too? Thank you for the tomtastic suggestion.

I did the simple pruning last year, it does make a difference but I haven´t tried the missouri. Is that the one you tried?, what is the difference?

Cornelia said:
Another lesson for great tomatoes: pruning! Does anyone else do this? I've pruned my cherry tomato and have already seen a difference!

Great question, Linda. The Fine Gardeningarticle talks about the difference between the two. Fascinating stuff!

I'm not sure about peppers - they're not something I grow.

thanks for the link!

Cornelia said:

Great question, Linda. The Fine Gardeningarticle talks about the difference between the two. Fascinating stuff!

I'm not sure about peppers - they're not something I grow.

I accidentally dropped to many seeds in my starter box indoors and unfortunatley they are all growing well. They are still just a couple inches tall, but I dont want to pull any out because I am afraid the roots are tangled together, and I would kill them all. Can I separate them when they are big enough to repot, or should I thin them out now, and what is the best way. (my 2nd starter tray I rectified the too many seeds problem.) I appreciate any input!

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