Mel’s Mix & Potting-Up Tomato Seedlings
“Potting-up” is just the term for moving seedlings out of the seedling tray or small container and into a larger container–usually a 4″ pot.
Start by taking a look at the stems of your tomato seedlings. The fine “hairs” lining the stem develop into roots when they come into contact with soil, and so burying a large portion of the stem at planting time effectively doubles the size of the plant’s root system and encourages productive plants.
In this post, you will learn how to create Mel’s Mix on a very small scale. You can do the exact same mix for your containers, whatever their sizes. Just make sure each ingredient is 1/3 by volume.
What you will need:
-Organic Vermiculite and Peat moss, both by Espoma, found in Truevalue for under 3 KD per 8.8L bag.
-Organic compost. This time I’m using my own homemade compost. You can use organic compost from Almashatel, which will include manure and will have a strong unpleasant odor.
-Pots, you can use plastic pots,recycle milk cartons, anything really that will hold the soil and plant, as long as it has drainage holes at the bottom, its fine. I am using these very cheap pots from True value that were on sale at the time.
-Water. (watering can above from Ace hardware)
The way these ingredients will be divided is 1/3 each. This is called Mel’s Mix, created by the genius behind the Square Foot Gardening Method: Mel Barthalomew.
And this is the same formula I will be using to fill my raised beds soon, which will be the final location for my plants.
*Make sure you wear a mask for protection, as the compost and vermiculite dust particles can get in your lungs.
*Make sure you work in an area that is easy to clean, place plastic under your work area if it isn’t.
*Always wear gloves.
Steps to pot up tomato seedlings:
Start by filling the pots with 1/3 compost. The compost will provide all the nutrients, in this method we will not add fertilizer, so don’t skimp on the compost, its there to feed.
Add 1/3 peat moss which will keep the mix nice and fluffy.
Vermiculite is a natural mineral. It starts off sort of like a flaky rock. When heat is applied, it expands and becomes a light, fluffy, fire-resistant material. There are numerous uses for this product (like insulation), but here we’re using it as a soil conditioner for our garden beds. It helps keep soil light, allows for good airflow, and absorbs and retains water. See how dusty it gets?
Make sure you mix it together really well.
Next, carefully take the seedling out of its container, Make sure to handle plants by the root ball or leaves, taking care to protect the fragile stem. Massage the roots gently to loosen them up. and place it on a small layer of your mix. Water gently and add some more mix lightly around the plant, until its stem is completely covered in soil. Snip off any leaves that will be covered by soil.
Water lightly enough to moisten the soil, don’t drown the plant.
Make sure you label the containers, keep them in the shade for a few days. You will notice drooping for a while, which is entirely normal, and called transplant shock. Tomato plants are one of the most resilient plants and will bounce back all the time, unless seriously damaged. Just take a look at the way they managed to survive in the tiny peat pots I had them in for more than a month.