Transplanting Cherry Tomato Plants, Container Gardening

I am growing cherry tomato plants from seeds. The seedlings began growing in March and were started in eggshells. (See my post on eggshell gardening.)

This post contains affiliate links to products I’ve bought and recommend. I could earn a small amount if a purchase is made through my link – with no extra cost to the buyer.

From there, they went into either the container garden or single, larger pots. I’m all for trying different things to see which growing idea works out best. So far, the tomatoes in the big containers are not doing as well as the ones in their own pots.

cherry tomato growing in eggshell

The tomatoes growing in their own small pots are doing very well. Each day I take them off the patio table and set them in the sun, along with my basil, dill, cosmos and marigolds.

At night I put them back up on the table so the raccoons won’t mess with them.

Potted plants with herbs and tomatoes

Two small tomato plants are growing in the box below. One died, and the other is still fairly small. The tomatoes above in their own pots are doing much better.

Two cherry tomato plants growing in a grow box
Cherry tomato plants in grow bed

Transplanting in Florida

Now it is the end of April. These tomato plants have outgrown their little pots so it’s time to re-pot. Since I don’t have a lot of space, I decided to use a tall pot. I prefer to grow plants in the ground, but here in Florida it’s difficult.

I bought one more tall pot, because I have two plants, and spent some time today moving the plants into their new, bigger containers.

re-potting a tomato plant

I gathered up some Spanish moss for the bottom of the container – a perk from living in Florida. It will serve as drainage. Then I mixed in some Blood Meal and Bone Meal (both links are Amazon affiliate links) with the purchased organic dirt as I filled the pot.

The bottom leaves of the tomato plants were removed, as they should not touch the dirt, and I planted the transplants as deep as I could. Some people plant tomato plants lying down with only the top leaves showing. This creates lots of extra roots for sturdy and hardy plants.

potting tomato plants in bigger pots

Now my only problem could be with the raccoons that come each night and are nosy and destructive. They like to dig in the dirt with their little paws and mess with my plants.

To hopefully deter them, I places some tray bird feeders around the pots.

tomato plants and raised bed gardens
Both tomato plants in their new pots

The old tomato plant

The tomatoes below are growing in a grow box and the plant has been growing all winter. These were planted in November, and I don’t suggest that. Here in Florida tomatoes should be planted in February or March.

Lots of the leaves became yellow and I trimmed them off. I’m just trying to get the tomatoes to turn red and be edible. I did use some organic spray on the leaves, which did seem to help.

I can’t remember what type of tomato these are, but they grew from a plant I purchased, and not from seeds – probably purchased at Home Depot. I really miss Tenney Farms in New Hampshire.

Growing tomatoes

Tips for growing tomatoes from seed

  • Start tomatoes from seeds in small containers, such as eggshells.
  • Use a quality soil, such as Black Gold (Amazon affiliate link) (I bought this type of potting soil locally and paid half the price – so shop around – early in the season!)
  • Once they have a few leaves and lots of roots, transplant to a larger pot.
  • When they fill that pot, transplant to either the garden, or a permanent large container.
  • Be sure they get lots of sun and consistent water all throughout their life. A drought and then lots of water will cause tomatoes to split.
  • If you are in Florida and your tomato plants are growing over winter, they may have yellow leaves and scarred fruit. It can’t be helped because of the weather! Do the best you can and wait for the warm days to appear. This means covering them at night to protect from the cold.

Cutworms in the Garden

Cutworms can quickly defoliate a plant and ruin garden crops. How do you know if it’s cutworms chewing on the leaves and stems?

How do you know if your garden problem is cutworms?

The short answer to that question is that whole stems will be cut off at the base. This is how the cutworm gets it’s name. The other part to that answer would be you won’t spot anything that could be doing the damage. It will seem to be a mystery.

Unlike many insects and worms that show up in a garden, the cutworm hides. When inspecting damaged leaves, you’ll likely see nothing. Cutworms sleep in the dirt during the day and feeds at night. Sneaky little buggers!

I noticed that something was eating my potato leaves. I was thinking “potato beetle” or slugs, and kept inspecting the plants and leaves closely. I saw nothing. Each day more leaves were eaten, and then the stalks began to fall – chewed off at the base. That clicked, because I know I’ve dealt with this before. Cutworms! Now, what is it they do? And how do I deal with them?

Organic Spray Did Not Help

I got my handy organic spray and sprayed the heck out of the plants. That didn’t seem to stop the problem one bit. I have two raised beds of potatoes and one was doing very poorly and then it began to show up in the other bed.

It was time for drastic measures. This meant researching online. Sure enough, it seemed the culprit was cutworms. I read that they overwinter in the soil and emerge in spring.

My Mistake

I believe I brought the cutworms into the raised beds when I added leaves from the yard as mulch. The potatoes were planted in dirt – new this year – from bags purchased at the local Home Depot, so I think the only way they could have been introduced was through the leaves and Spanish moss I added.

While researching the problem, I read that slugs will also eat potato leaves and mounding the soil around the plant will help. ( This page about slugs and potatoes is a good one for advice if you have that problem.)

I began scraping away all the leaves I had on top of the gardens and throwing it in the woods. Then I began digging up hills to mound around each of the plants. And that is when I saw it – a big cutworm! Altogether I found about 6 worms, large and small. One was greenish, one was pink and the small ones were black.

The pupae stage is when the worm / caterpillar has become a cocoon. The adult moth will emerge from this reddish orange shell to fly around and lay eggs that become more worms. But the worms are the worst in Spring – just in time for planting.

This hard orange-red thing in the dirt is cutworm pupa.
Cutworm pupa is reddish-orange

Getting Rid of Cutworms

My potato gardens are small. I have two raised beds with a total of 10 plants growing. I simply continued to dig around in the dirt searching for the worms.

Hand-picking

The cutworms I found were placed into my tray bird feeder and within a couple of minutes a cardinal was having the worms for a meal! This is a very simple way to get rid of the worms while helping out the birds. If you don’t have a tray feeder, just set them on a board or rock in the yard where birds visit. The birds come fast for the juicy meal.

I also went out at night to inspect the plants and found one more worm which I hand picked off. I continue to check for worms but haven’t found any more.

Eggshells and Coffee Grounds

Lots of online sites have advice about getting rid of these destructive worms, but I like to do so as naturally as possible. I had a few eggshells leftover from my eggshell seed starters project, so I crunched them up and sprinkled them around the base of the remaining potato plants. The only problem with this is that the shells get moved around when watering.

Also, the worms do not like coffee grounds so you could do the same thing with leftover grounds.

Eggshells sprinkled around the base of potato plants

Make a Collar

After checking on my potatoes, I came over to the other raised bed and one of the bean plants was totally chewed off! Just in case the cutworm was to blame, I made tin foil collars for the other plants. They have to be pushed down into the dirt and must surround the stalk.

This is best done when the plants are very young so the roots will not be disturbed. I used foil, but other things work. Think toilet paper and paper towel cardboard. Plastic cups, plastic bottles, and anything round and open will work.

Now my potato plants (in garden number 2) look like bare stalks. I’ll continue to check for worms and watch to see if the stalks come back.

Ways to Prevent Cutworm Problems

The worms emerge from eggs in Spring and they have been existing underground. Till the garden or dig down a few inches to search for the worms and remove them before planting. Take precautions by using the collars mentioned above – this is not that difficult to do if the garden is small.

Please visit this page at The Real Dirt Blog which is full of excellent information and advice about the cutworm.

How to know if you have cutworms in the garden, and what to do about them.

Read more here about cutworm stages: adult larvae and pupa drawings.



Planting Potatoes in a Container Garden

My son had collected a couple of big white barrels to use for rainwater catching from the roof. He cut one in half crosswise and built stands for both halves to create raised garden beds for growing potatoes.

I’ve grown potatoes a few times, and fresh dug potatoes are delicious. Now, I have no yard space to grow them, so they will go into the containers.

homemade DIY barrel raised garden beds

The potatoes I used were simply old red (and one white) potatoes from the kitchen that had developed growth from their eyes.

I know that most information about planting potatoes says to buy special seed potatoes, but I never have. The reason for buying seed potatoes is to prevent disease, which is a good reason. I already had the sprouted potatoes so I used them. Also, orders are for pounds of potatoes – which I don’t have room for.

Read this page at Microveggie for ideas on where to buy seed potatoes.

The potatoes from the grocery store usually sprout on their own if left long enough, but I’d love to begin with the good, disease free ones, and keep planting from there. Don’t ever use the green parts of potatoes for anything – planting or eating!

March Potato Planting

I’m in Florida, and March is the time to get serious about planting a garden. This year I grew seeds in eggshells and purchased new grow boxes for the vegetables.

red and white potatoes with eyes

Beginning of March: After adding bags of organic garden dirt to the barrel beds, I mixed in some leaves to loosen the soil, bone meal (good for developing good roots) and blood meal. I add the “meals” this because I use these amendments in all my gardens each spring. Otherwise, no fertilizer needs to be added to potatoes while they are growing.

Compost would be nice to add, but presently I am in the middle of making my own compost using the Hot Frog Composter. It might be ready for Fall planting.

planting potatoes in raised container beds

Potatoes should be cut with only a couple of eyes in each piece. Plant each cut piece with eyes facing upward and cover with a couple of inches of dirt.

I put five cut pieces into each bed. This is probably too many. Also, the barrel beds are really too shallow, but I have no other place to grow potatoes. I will see what happens.

Potatoes in soil

We had a lot of rain for a few days after they were planted. My son had drilled holes in the bottom of the barrels for drainage. After a week or so the green leaves began to show. (Leaves are poisonous, so keep pets and kids away.)

potato plant
Potato plant
potato plants in grow box
Potatoes

As the green stems grow and get tall enough, I am adding more dirt. The potatoes will grow off tubers under the soil. The more dirt for them to spread out, the better. Unfortunately I don’t have much land for growing potatoes in the ground.

Building up the soil around the greenery

Potatoes grow well with green beans planted nearby. This is what my gardening book advises. If your garden is in the ground, and you have space, maybe do this.

When Are Potatoes Ready to Dig?

Once the tops – those green parts – die back, the potatoes need to be dug up. How long does it take? In general, three months, give or take.

It is possible to gently dig around the plants before this to pull up small potatoes for eating. After the plants have been growing for a couple of months, it is possible to carefully dig around and find a couple of small potatoes to eat. In a small household, like where I live, this is a good idea so I won’t end up with all the potatoes being ready at once.

In the ground, I would use a pitchfork and carefully lift the soil around each top. They can really branch out, so dig around.

Because they are in the barrel, I’ll choose a time when the soil is dry (hopefully) and dig with a hand shovel and gloves.

When all the potatoes are pulled out of the dirt. Let them sit in the sun to dry a bit. DO NOT RINSE THEM… just brush the dirt off. Often gardeners will say to cure them, which toughens the skin for storing. If your harvest is large, see what to do here at “How to Harvest and Store Potatoes”.

Potato tops can go into the compost pile. Leaves of potato plants are poisonous if eaten, but can go into the compost to be broken down. Only do this if the plant shows no sign of disease. Read more about composting questionable poisonous plants.

I will follow up with more information about my potato garden as the season progresses.

More Gardening News

The Impromptu Bird House For Wrens

Crocheting a little wren birdhouse.

Last year we had wrens flying into the garage and we discovered they were building a nest. The nest, unfortunately, was inside my son’s tool belt which hung up high near the window.

I told him to leave it alone and let the birds do their thing. It was an odd place to have a nest because with the garage door closed, they couldn’t get in or out. Usually the door was left up a little during the day for the cats, but it was always closed tight all night long.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Did that appeal to the wrens? Maybe. They never did make a complete nest or have babies in our garage, but this year they began the same routine. They love the tool belt because it has big open leather holders that are deep. I suspect a handyman would carry his drills or whatnot in them.

This time my son was having none of it. He is not a nature lover and didn’t want birds in his belt. He dumped out the few little leaves inside and put the belt away. I know. Mean.

So I got to thinking that maybe I could make a nest, or buy one, that the wrens might use. This led to me searching for a nest to make out of yarn.

I have a website about my knitting projects called New England’s Narrow Road. I am an avid fiber artist… fancy name for knitter of things. But I wanted this birdhouse to be done fast, so I chose to crochet it.

My Birdhouse Made of Yarn

I hadn’t crocheted for a while, but it all comes back when you begin. I love knitting, but crochet is much faster and easier to correct mistakes.

I can’t tell you exactly how I made this birdhouse, but I began as if to crochet a bag – at the bottom. After expanding up and out, I made the hole. Then I decreased for the top and made the loop.

I used pure wool (Jamieson & Smith) so it would be a natural material that would last outside in the elements.

Crocheted bird house

When the whole thing was finished – it took only 2 nights of work – I washed it and dried it in the dryer to “felt” the wool yarn. This tightens up the strands of yarn so it’s less porous.

I took it outside and hung it on a shrub where I would often see wrens. This is where I stumbled across a pretty little orange flowering milkweed plant.

Crocheted bird house

I want to make more houses and possibly create a pattern that I can share with others. Around here, we have frogs and other creatures that take over birdhouses, so there may never be a wren inside. Maybe I will make a bunch of houses and hang them inside the garage!

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