I had no idea what was in store for me when I planted tomato seeds in my AeroGarden a month ago. I ended up with way more seeds than I was expecting & I wasn’t quite sure if any of them would end up growing or not. The first sprout came up just in time, exactly one week after I planted them & the other sprouts soon followed their leader. All of the seeds sprouted, which gave me a tiny jungle of 18 sprouts in my small AeroGarden Harvest that is only meant to grow two tomato plants. Me, being me, I put off thinning the sprouts as much as I could since I have problems with removing plants that are thriving, but I finally bit the bullet once it got way too crowded in there. Follow along to see what I did.
You’re supposed to thin out the seedlings as soon as they put out their leaves. Generally, thinning out seedlings means that you leave the strongest sprout & remove the rest in order to give the one left standing the best chance for success. You can either replant the other seedlings or throw them away. I ended up going after the plants much later than that because I wanted to make sure that I had strong seedlings before I decided to pluck some out. That was a big mistake. If I had gotten to them when I was supposed to, then I might have been able to salvage the weaker seedlings. Instead, by the time that I started the thinning out process, the roots of the plants were far too tangled together for me to pull out the small ones without possibly damaging the strong ones.
I wasn’t left with many options after that. I tried gently pulling out a few tiny seedlings only to have them break off. Drat! At that point, most the seedlings were no longer seedlings, instead they were sturdy plants, which made me even less inclined to thin them out. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t have the courage to remove any of the sturdy plants, so I left 2-3 plants per pod. I also made the executive decision to pull out 3 out of the 5 pods that contained tomato plants & replant them in potting soil in their own small containers. First, I carefully removed the pods while trying to not disrupt/break the roots as much as I could. Then, I removed the pods. I kept the plants in the sponges since I know that it is a loser’s game trying to get the roots out of there. I tried doing that last year during my tomato wars series & it’s a bad idea. You end ripping off more roots than sponge. I put the plants in an empty planter pot while I prepared their new soil-bound homes.
I found three small nursery pots in my garage & potted them up with a mixture of potting soil & perlite. I always go heavy on the perlite in order to have light & fluffy soil. I made a deep hole in the center of each pot & got to planting the tomatoes. This ended up being a little tricky because the sponges were a lot taller than I thought they were, but soon enough I was able to firmly nestle them in their new homes. After that, I situated them around my AeroGarden in order for them to get light from the AeroGarden, otherwise, I would have no chance of growing tomatoes indoors since they are such sun lovers. Finally, I watered them in & hoped for the best.
It’s always a bit tricky whenever you transplant plants since they will normally go through a bit of a shock. It’s even trickier when you take a plant that has grown entirely in water & stick it in a pot of soil. I expected the plants to look pretty sad for a while & they stay true to that course. Initially, they looked fine, but by the next day they were wilting away. I resisted the urge to move them to a different spot or water them more, instead I left them be. Soon enough, they perked right up. As of right now, they are looking good with a few leaf casualties, which is to be expected. That was one rollercoaster environmental change for them!
A few days later, I finally started trimming the plants that I left in the AeroGarden. I held off trimming them during the big plant migration because I didn’t want to mess with them further after I most assuredly probably broke off some of their roots when I pulled out their friends. I removed all of the suckers which are the leaves that grow out of the stem joints. This is just general tomato plant care, regardless of how they’re grown. The suckers will usually just grow more leaves & not tomatoes. It’s best practice to remove them in order to conserve energy for the plant to fruit. We want tons of tomatoes, not tons of leaves. I’ll remove the suckers from the potted tomato plants in a few days, since I want them to rebound fully before I go at them again.
So far all of the plants are looking great, but the hydroponic plants look markedly better. At the time of the migration, all of the plants were about the same size. Post-migration, the hydroponic plants grew like gangbusters & are about twice the size of their pot-bound friends. The potted tomatoes have yet to put on any recognizable growth, but again that’s understandable considering what they’ve been through. Fingers crossed that they’ll catch up.
For now, I wait & check daily to see if I can find any little flowers forming. The plants are supposed to have tomatoes by about 70 days after planting, so the flowers should be here soon enough. I can’t wait! My advice to you is to not wait too long before thinning out your plants. Easier said than done for me, clearly. However, I certainly made it a lot harder on myself & my tomato plants by waiting so long. Be brave & yank the seedlings when they are tiny! Happy gardening, everyone!