Newbie hoping to get tomatoes off on a good start
This is my 2nd year attempting a vegetable garden. Last year I attempted to grow 3 tomato plants and failed miserably... I think we ate 4-5 tomatoes off of those 3 plants. Reading this forum and other online sources I think I know several mistakes I made (under watering, inconsistent watering, not fertilizing/feeding, planted too close etc) that I hope to improve upon this year. If there is a mistake to be made, I probably made it. :) I'm really hoping for a better outcome this year.
I bought 4 starter plants from a local nursery- Cherokee Purple, Sun Sugar, Sweet Baby Girl and Early Annie. I have a raised garden bed where I plan to plant the Cherokee Purple and Sun Sugar. I have 2 larger containers (estimating ~15 gallons each) for the other two. Our last frost date is ~May 21. I am in Colorado Springs at an elevation of 6800 ft. I was led to believe the nursery would sell out of popular varieties quickly so I bought the plants on Friday despite not being ready to put them in the ground.
An employee told me she won't plant tomatoes here without a WOW (Wall o Water). Having read about WOWs on here I decided to try that route. So I set up the WOWs however I'm hesitant to go ahead and plant them. We just had a couple of nights of lows in the 20s. The forecast for the next 10 days is looking better, lows in the high 30s and increasing to lows in the 40s. I know the idea of WOWs is to protect from freezing temps however I just don't think I trust it will actually work. In the meantime I have been trying to harden off the plants, I figure that can only be a good thing even if they do go in the WOWs.
I do not know what the soil temp is or how to measure it. I used a point and shoot temp reader but I have no idea if that is an accurate way to measure soil temp. I am guessing not.
So my question, what to do? Go ahead and plant in the WOWs since the temps look to be above freezing for the forseeable future? We have a few overcast days with potential for rainfall the next few days. Is it better to continue hardening off a bit longer and plant in the WOWs once the night time lows are in the 40s? I don't want to kill or harm my babies.
A bit more... I drilled 4 holes about 3/4" in the bottom of one pot and 5 in the other for drainage. Is that enough? I put EKO Outdoor potting mix in my pots. Should I add perlite? Fertilizer? I plan to use a liquid fish/kelp fertilizer on the plants in the containers. Should I also use it in the raised bed, or do I use a granular fertilizer there? When do I start fertilizing?
Clearly I need to keep reading up, I just don't want to screw up my plants this year! Any advice is greatly appreciated. :) Included a pic so you can see what I am starting with. I had no idea how to pick. I thought they looked healthy and not leggy... although I think they looked healthier the day I bought them (this pic is from today). Should I plant them deep?
I apologize this is so long! And thank you for taking the time to read if you made it this far. ;)