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Transplant tomato, eggplant and pepper plants to the garden

Space plants according to the instructions on the seed packet to prevent overcrowding.
Space plants according to the instructions on the seed packet to prevent overcrowding.
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Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are heat-loving plants; they do not tolerate cool weather well. Transplanting these plants early does not give them a head start. Instead, the cool Iowa nights will prevent them from growing at their normal fast rate. A tomato plant that is planted in early May will likely not produce fruit sooner than a tomato plant that is planted in early June. In fact, the early June tomato plant will quickly catch up to—and maybe even surpass—the May tomato plant. Therefore, there is no rush in getting heat-loving plants into the central Iowa garden.

Seedlings that have been started indoors need to be “hardened off” before transplanting to the garden (see Prepare tomato, eggplant and pepper seedlings for transplanting to the garden).

If not done already, the garden should be prepared (this is better done in the fall, but preparing the garden in the spring will work). For each plant, dig a hole that is approximately twice as deep and wide as the plant is tall. For example, if a plant is six inches tall, dig a hole that is twelve inches deep and twelve inches wide. Be mindful of spacing when digging holes. Tomato plants need at least twenty-four inches between them, and pepper plants need at least twelve inches. The spacing will depend on the variety of plant, so check the seed packet.

Follow these transplanting steps.

Tomatoes and Eggplant

  1. Add a handful of crushed egg shells in the bottom of the planting hole. This helps prevent blossom end rot in developing fruit.
  2. Add about an inch of well-rotted compost (Wal-Mart sells inexpensive bags of prepared compost).
  3. Add enough soil so that, when the plant is placed in the hole, only the top two sets of leaves are above ground.
  4. Gently remove the transplant from its container, taking care not to damage the roots.
  5. Fill the hole with soil, packing firmly around the plant.


Peppers

  1. Add about an inch of well-rotted compost (Wal-Mart sells inexpensive bags of prepared compost).
  2. Add enough soil so that, when the planted, the bottom set of leaves will be just above ground.
  3. Gently remove the transplant from its container, taking care not to damage the roots.
  4. Fill the hole with soil, packing firmly around the plant.


After planting, water thoroughly and lightly fertilize with a diluted liquid fish fertilizer. Do not fertilize again until the first fruit appears (over fertilizing results in large, leafy plants that produce little or no fruit).

Cover the soil at the base of the plants with about an inch of organic mulch, such as untreated wood chips, shredded newspaper, or grass clippings. Mulch helps retain water and suppress weeds.

Place wind protection, such as plastic gallon milk or vinegar containers, plastic pots from greenhouse potted plants, or store-bought wind protectors. This is very important because the transplants will be very fragile until they can develop strong root systems.

Make sure the transplants get around one inch of water each week.

 

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