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Tomatoes in distress

 
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Hello. Early February, I decided that tomatoes would be taken care off properly, so I sew a few seeds in individual pots. About ten plants grew, and I put them all in the same, bigger pot.

Now, I have those same ten plants, about 4 feet high, in the same container. I want to plant them very soon, and as it's too late for them to have their own separate pot, I will need to somehow untangle most of the roots. I know some plants need to be planted with the lump of earth they grew in, and avoid disturbing the roots. But here, I won't have a lot of choice.

I want to know, can I disturb those root, AKA use a lot of water to "wash" the earth around them so that I can separate the plants, and then plant them without killing them, should I split the lumps that are around the roots without disturbing them too much, or something else I haven't thought off ? I'll need to do something as planting ten tomato plant (about one inch next to each other) is pushing it, but I want to minimize the damages...
 
pollinator
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Location: Southern Germany
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Go ahead. The plan with water sounds good.

Luckily tomatoes are much more robust than cucurbits.
They will survive and soon start to grow much better.

Just give them good soil, plenty of room and bury them deep enough (deeper than before and lying the stem down a bit).

And next time separate them earlier, even if that means you can keep less plants.
 
pollinator
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Tomatoes are pretty resilient, but four feet high, wow!  I agree with Anita--good soil, plenty of room and bury them deep.  The only issue I predict is that you will likely have some wilting due to the root disturbance.  Keep them watered and perhaps provide a bit of shade for a few days and I think they will be okay.  

Let us know how it goes.
 
pollinator
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You can plant tomatoes on their sides in a shallow trench, burying the entire stem and even some of the leaves. They'll root everywhere they touch soil, which would probably help later on with whatever root damage you inflict now.  

Maybe snipping some of the leaves in half after transplanting would help as well, if you end up really mangling the roots. Minimize transpiration for a bit.

Tomatoes really are tough, though.
 
gardener
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When I sow seeds and have multiples come up, I've always just torn them apart and trimmed the tops (I struggle with trashing the extras that come up and need to be thinned). Another thing that's worked was snipping off pieces and sticking them in water to root. They seem to root pretty quickly in water or moist soil, and have no trouble catching up to their seed-grown brethren.  
I think as long as you don't let the roots be exposed to the light/air long enough to dry out, they should bounce back from the stress of the separation and will grow even more once they have their own space and soil.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!
 
Mike Lafay
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Well thanks you everybody for the replies and tips, so two days ago I did it, and also added some shredded nettle leaves at the bottom of the holes I planted them in.

However most of the plants are looking really weird, do anybody know what's happening, if it's just the transplanting shock or something worse ?

Here's a few pictures:







What can I do to stop this ? The leaves looks like the plants are thirsty, but there's those weird white/brown marks on the leaves... I watered them a bit in the early morning or late afternoon, never directly on the leaves.
 
pollinator
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kinda looks like a sunburn. were they in full sun before you separated them?
 
Mike Lafay
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I left them in the shade for a while, to avoid having them grow too much. So those would only be sunburns ? Will the plants adapt quickly, or do I need to do something ?
 
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I wouldn’t worry about them just yet. They look like they’re still vulnerable and as long as you didn’t lose too much roots, you shouldn’t need to do anything special. Careful not to overwater if anything, you don’t want any nasty fungal activity preying on those sensitive roots.
 
gardener
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i think you can expect the plants to be shocked for a bit afterward, and as they get used to the sun they will also be recovering from the shock.
 
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