In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
February, 2006
Regional Report

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2018

Quart-size plastic bags make inexpensive containers for growing extra-large transplants.

Tomato Time!

Want to get your tomato seedlings growing strongly but don't have enough plastic containers? Here's a technique that's easy, efficient, and inexpensive. Try growing them in quart-size plastic food storage bags. Each plant's root system will be concentrated in a block that's easy to transplant into the garden.

Into the Bag
To prepare each bag, fold the bottom two corners under to meet, point to point, and tape them in place. Clip the four new corners for drainage, and fit them snugly together as a group in a square drip tray.

Transplant each 2-inch-tall seedling into its own bag. Roll down the top of each bag to just above the soil level of the plant. Pack each together in the drip tray, and place the tray in a bright but cool area. As the plants grow, add more soil every few days up to the growing tip, pulling up the sides of the bag as necessary. Water and feed as usual. Turn the whole tray every other day so that the plants grow straight.

Into the Garden
Planting into the garden can be done using one of two different techniques, depending on the looseness of your soil. Deep planting is best for raised beds and areas where the soil is friable. Horizontal planting is best for heavier soils. Both planting methods will encourage roots along the entire length of the buried stem.

For deep planting, cut open the bottom of the bag, and set the plant and its entire root system deep enough to bury the plant up to its top set of leaves. Slip the bag up and out of the hole over the plant. Fill in the hole with soil, and tamp down gently, leaving an indentation about a foot wide as an initial watering basin.

For horizontal planting, dig a 3-inch-deep trench about a foot long. Cut open the bottom of the bag, turn it onto its side, and gently urge the seedling out so it's laying down in the trench. Gently bend the plant's growing tip up above the soil surface, and fill in the hole around the plant and up to these top leaves. Gently tamp down the soil. Leave an indentation about a foot wide as an initial watering basin.

Fill each basin 3 times, to settle the soil and ensure good contact with the stem and rootball. Water in the plants with a half-strength solution of a balanced, complete fertilizer, such as 10-10-10. "Balanced" means all the N-P-K numbers are the same. "Complete" means that there is at least some of each N, P, and K, and none of the numbers is a zero.

To concentrate daytime heat and protect from late-season frosts, cover each plant gently with a clear, plastic, gallon-size milk jug or liter-size soda bottle with its bottom cut out and the cap off. Remove this covering when foliage crowds the container.


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