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Garden green stick tomato plant
Date: January 20, 2014
The customer purchased the Product with the following issue:
" This is a “stick” tomato, and is over 30 inches tall when it starts to bloom. The leaves are much more leathery than other commercial “stick” or “pot” tomatoes and I am not sure how to pot them, other than to place them in a container on the ground, I don’t want to plant them in ground. What should I do to pot them and keep them healthy?"
Thanks for the great question! I absolutely love the large, gnarly, gardening sticks that I've seen for sale. I haven't seen many people around who have them. I was sent one as a gift a few months ago. They grow like they're transplanted, with long vertical roots and root hairs.
This is why I thought they might be nice to plant with an herbaceous border. The harvest is from the ground, so they'll get roots in the soil.
I wanted to address two things:
1. What to do with the plant when you're done with it
2. What to do with the plant when you're finished growing it
Here's the instructions I give. The answers are most of the time, "You can do whatever you want with them."
In Part 1
Disassemble the plant.
You can do this to any tomato plant and I don't mean, simply pruning it. You can dig around it and pull the plants out of the ground. That will not harm it. You can break some of the roots and take the tops off. Forcing this plant into a transplant cage is like throwing a pet into a wire cage at the pound. I would just harvest the plant, like I would with any plant, pull it out, and give it a fresh start.
You can also use garden fork to loosen the soil around the plant. You'll want to gently work it around. You'll see and feel where the roots are and you can gently break them off. A gentle walk around will free the plant and it should be fine.
I'd recommend that you use tweezers or even a small, sharp spade or trowel. I'd leave the leaves on the plants. (This is so that the plant will remember where it grew. With a tomato plant this is a very important point!) I'd gently work a hole in the dirt in the bottom of the planter, not much deeper than the roots. Then I'd put the plant in it, and gently press the dirt back into place. If the bottom of the planter gets completely filled with dirt, I would remove the plants, wash the bottom of the planter, and reuse it. If the soil is too compacted, you can remove the plants, put them on a tarp or cardboard and lightly rake the soil around them and then put them back in the planter.
You can do this with a whole string of plants. We typically do it with a three or four plant grouping to start.
Once you've put them in the hole, and pressing the soil back in place, you can put a piece of cardboard in the bottom of the hole, the "rocking horse." That's it.
When you water the plants, leave the cardboard in place, or remove it. If you remove the cardboard, put the plants back in the hole.
I like to put a small twig on the cardboard, about an inch or two from the top of the soil.
Once the plant is set in the planter, you can trim the lower leaves so that they're shorter. If you want the plant to look better, you can have the lower leaves all the way to the ground. But you can just leave them as is and that's fine too.
The photo shows that the plant is in the first soil layer, the 'rocking horse' is in the bottom of the plant hole, and the cardboard is near the top.
This is not the most attractive way to transplant, but it's an easy way to start. You can always plant the 'bouquet' style tomato plant in the rock and then transplant it to the 'rocking horse' later on.
I suggest watering it one time a day for a couple of weeks. Water the 'bouquet' style plants one time, and just water the top part of the 'rocking horse' until the soil gets quite dry. Water the plant, then let the rain get it.
In Part 2
I'd suggest keeping it in the bottom of the planter, the 'rocking horse', and then when it starts to bloom, you can move it outside to a planting site, or pot it and move it where you want it to be.
Now you can feed and water the plants as needed. As long as the soil is moist, you don't need to water the plants more than once a week. If the soil dries out, you can get that soil wet again with a hose and it will stay good for weeks.
In Part 3
How to care for the plant when you want to put it outside
Grow a wide variety of plants next to it.
Usually you can find a companion or mixed plant grouping that grows just as fast and is easier to care for.
You can grow both plants in one container, but you should let the 'bouquet' style grow a bit longer, longer than the 'rocking horse' so that you can see it's blooming.
When you plant it, place a piece of cardboard or some sort of barrier (like my homemade growing trays) underneath the soil. The idea is to keep the soil off of the root area, so that the roots are not rotting.
When it starts to bloom, you can plant it outside. You'll have to experiment a bit, but I'd suggest a tomato container or hanging planter. You can find them at a hardware store or garden center. The larger