Prick out tomato plants - how to do it right?

Prick out tomato plants - how to do it right?

The time cannot be overlooked

Experienced hobby gardeners do not prick tomato plants on a firmly cemented schedule. Rather, pay attention to a visual identification sign that signals the right date for the separation. When the first 'real' pair of leaves flourishes above the two cotyledons, the time is ripe. The visual difference between the two types of leaf is so clear that no doubt can arise even for a bloody beginner.

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An exemplary soil for pricking tomato plants

The seeds of tomato plants sown must first show what they are made of in a poor substrate. A more nutritious soil is available for the ripening seedlings after pricking, because after all, the tiny plants should reach a height of 30 to 40 centimeters by the time they are planted out in May. For the second phase of cultivation, these soil mixtures are therefore recommended:

  • Vegetable soil from the garden center, additionally emaciated with the help of quartz sand, (14.90 € at Amazon *) peat, or perlite
  • Commercial standard pricking soil on the basis of green compost
  • Own mixture of 1 part each of garden soil, bark humus and sand with 3 parts of compost and 4 parts of perlite, (32.90 € at Amazon *) styrofoam balls or peat

In order to guarantee sterility, the soil mixture is also sterilized. This will ensure that there are no pathogens causing diseases or eggs from pests hiding in it. Fill the earth into a fireproof bowl and place it in the oven at 150 degrees for 30 minutes or in the microwave for 10 minutes at 750-800 watts.

Uncomplicated pricking with the right accessories

The list of accessories for pricking tomato plants is short; nevertheless, every position contributes to the successful course of the somewhat delicate procedure. In any case, a special pricking stick made of wood, metal or plastic makes sense. The tool costs only a few euros, although its functionality surpasses any makeshift method. The following variants are shortlisted as suitable planters:

  • Clay pots with a diameter of 10 centimeters
  • 9-centimeter plastic pots
  • Maxi spring peat pots from Jiffy

Clay pots are thoroughly watered before they are used so that they do not remove moisture from the tomato plants. Plastic pots are only suitable with a bottom opening as a water drain to prevent waterlogging. If you prick out peat spring pots, you will later transplant them together with the tomato plants into the bed or pot.

Prick out stress-free - step-by-step instructions

Tomato plants are never more fragile than during pricking. It is therefore advisable to transplant each seedling individually. Two to three hours beforehand, the plants are watered thoroughly, which makes the entire workflow easier. The pots fill about 5 centimeters high with substrate. If you use clay or plastic vessels, a drainage made of pebbles or chippings comes through the bottom opening. (12.80 € at Amazon *) This is how it works:

  • loosen the soil around the seedling with the prick stick
  • lift out the plant and examine the roots
  • Use your fingernails to shorten roots that are too long to a length of 2 centimeters
  • Use the prick stick to make a recess in the substrate to insert the seedling
  • Fill in the rest of the soil below the cotyledons and press down

The substrate ideally forms a small turtleneck around the stem below the cotyledons. Since tomato plants are able to form adventitious roots at this point, they promote stability for further growth. If the seedlings are grafted, the grafting point must not be covered with soil. Last but not least, water the youngsters with room warm water.

Appropriate care after pricking

The first three to four days after pricking the tomato plants are allowed to relax in a warm place in partial shade. Only then do they move to a bright location. In order for the young plants not to ginger, temperatures and light conditions must be kept in a suitable balance. The higher the mercury column rises, the more light must be available.

Tomato plants should not be exposed to direct sunlight at this stage of growth. They are only accustomed to direct sunlight for hours during the day in the week before they move outdoors. Constant watering is particularly important in order to compensate for the loss of moisture. Tomato plants receive fertilizer in the second week after planting at the earliest.

Tips & Tricks

If you want to offer your tomato seedlings the ultimate substrate, use vermiculite as the pricking soil. The natural silicate made of aluminum, iron and magnesium is mineral, germ-free and tops any soil mix. Vermiculite promotes root growth, while at the same time it stores water and is well ventilated. However, it has its price of 39 euros for 100 liters.