Peat Pots for Tomatoes
I've been passing the winter working on expanding my tomato seedling production. In the course of that project, I stumbled on what I think will be a great way to transplant tomatoes. I bought a case of 4000 round Jiffy peat pots and built an outside cold frame to supplement my limited light tray space inside the house.
I germinated some old tom seed, transplanted them into the peat pots as soon as they sprouted and put them in my cold frame to test the electric heating, etc. I used some large trays with wood sides and 1/2" hardware cloth on the bottom. The peat pots dried-out completely on the first sunny day (they were totally saturated in the morning), and the seedlings died. They dry-out a lot quicker than the plastic cells.
I started another batch, and this time lined the tray bottom with aluminum foil and set the peat pots in about 1/4" of water. The pots wicked up they water and the seedlings thrived. With that solved,I began to experiment with planting techniques - and I'm pretty happy with the results.
After a lot of fiddling around, I learned that I had to trim off the top lip of the peat pot with a scissors before planting so it wouldn't wick-out moisture so fast. I also punched a hole in the bottom with the tip of the scissors, although these pots have slits in the sides. They measure 2"H X 2"W at the top and 1-1/2"W at the bottom.
Since the soil will be treated with Devrinol, I won't be able to dig up much dirt when transplanting without exposing new weed seeds at the worst possible place - the base of the plant. I pondered that problem and the answer hit me in bed one night:
The pots are almost exactly the same diameter as 2" Sch 40
PVC. So I put a bolt through the pipe at 2". Then I used it to punch a hole in my moist, sandy loam soil. The dirt went up inside the pipe, of course, leaving a nice clean hole. I trimmed and punched a peat pot, as described above, and simply dropped it in the hole! Perfect fit! Didn't need to be tamped or anything - just watered well.
I punched a dozen more holes before the dirt in the pipe needed to be dumped. When actually planting in March, I'll dump it in the pathways where I can cultivate for weeds. This was followed by several days in the 70's with nights in the 50's and the seedlings are doing fine. They will be killed by frost on Sunday night, but I've had enough time to see that this system is going to work - and a LOT easier than crawling on my hands and knees dragging a tray of plastic six packs! I can run a 100' row in minutes that way! I also found that by making the hole an inch deeper, it forms a nice basin for the transplant water.
The only problem I can think of is the fact that the pots are slightly tapered (1/2" narrower at the bottom)which could leave an air void - but I'm pretty sure the watering will fill it in quickly. I'll transplant when they they make their first set of true leaves and replace any that die. They will have been exposed to the sun and wind from the time they sprout.
Just thought I'd share it with y'all. If you think I'm full of ...manure, please tell me! :-)