Starting hoop house tomatoes

March 31, 2012

A few weeks ago I started tomatoes for Dad’s hoop house project. Starting tomato plants from seed is usually a simple process of dropping a seed into a 6-pack cell filled with soil-less potting mix. Starting tomatoes for the hoop house requires a different approach.

Dad and I visited McDougal’s Orchard recently to inquire about the how-to’s of starting hoop house tomatoes. Ellen McAdam, who grows hoop house tomatoes at McDougal’s Orchard gave us lots of growing tips.

oasis cubes used for starting tomatoes or other vegetables.











Oasis is one of the growing mediums used to start hoop house tomatoes. The 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 cubes come in a sheet and can be purchased at Griffin’s Greenhouse in Gray, Maine. The cubes are just like the oasis medium used in flower arrangements.

Three varieties of tomatoes were ordered from Johnny’s Selects Seeds. Two varieties, Clermon and Geronimo were hoop house recommendations, while New Girl is a variety used by Eliot Coleman.

One seed is dropped into each oasis indentation and a light covering of potting mix covers the seeds.

first tomatoes seeds starting to sprout.

Clermon, hoop house tomato variety.

When the tomatoes are 2″-3″ tall, the oasis cubes are separated and turned on their side. This forces the tomato plant to grow at a new angle, which in turn, will cause the tomato plant to grow a deeper root system. When the seedling is potted deep in the peat pot, it will grow new roots along its stem.

oasis tomato ready for transplant.

This tomato plant was turned on its side and is now ready for transplant.

Ready for transplant.

oasis tomatoes on the right, transplants on the left,

transplants ready to be moved to the attic garden.

For the next few weeks, the tomatoes will grow in the attic loft under the 6 x 6 sky window.

It’s very cozy up here with plenty of sunlight.

In about 4 weeks, the tomato plants will be transplanted into 5 gallon grow bags filled with bark mulch.

At that point, they will be at their permanent location in Dad’s hoop house at Rivard Farm.

You can find more about Rivard Farm at rivardfarm on Facebook.

Happy Planting! Diane


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