How to pot on tomatoes

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My tomatoes have started looking a little leggy recently – which sadly doesn’t mean that they’d look great in a little black dress. Leggy plants have too much stem compared to foliage – but luckily, this is an easy problem to solve. Tomatoes are terribly clever plants that are able to grow roots through their stems (most plants sulk if you bury too much of their stem underground as it leads to rotting, but not so the amenable tomato). As such, it was time for potting on.

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Take your leggy tomatoes. Ideally you should pot them on before the stem starts to droop.

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Take a pot that’s at least nine inches across and put a few inches of compost in the bottom. I used compost that had been used to grow pea seedlings which sadly died due to two sunny days in a row when I was away – but not before giving out a lovely nitrogen-rich root mass that I could use for natural fertilizer.
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Take the tomatoes out of the pot. Use a blunt knife around the edges of the pot to loosen the plant if need be (though if you pot on early enough, it shouldn’t be an issue) If the roots have trapped the plant in the pot, cut the plastic away (but only if you can’t wiggle the root system out without damaging it: othewise it’s a waste of pots) Don’t touch the stem unless absolutely necessary as this can damage the plants: handle the tomatoes by the leaves instead
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Keep the root mass as undisturbed as possible, put into the pot and top up with compost. This is either the last pot the tomato will go in before it gets planted into the ground, or the penultimate one if I decide to put it in a container to maximise growing space.

It’s a good idea to pot on when it’s a fairly overcast day, as that way you can throw a bit of hardening off into the mix too, by leaving your tomatoes outside for a couple of hours once you’ve potted them on and watered them. These ones are about half way through the hardening off process – I’m deliberately taking it slowly as I’m worried there might be frosts so don’t want to plant them out until early June to be on the safe side.

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