Creating a Life of Plenty

The Tomatoes are Coming!! The Tomatoes are Coming (Part II)

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Growing tomatoes is relatively easy. I prefer growing from organic seeds so I can be assured that my plants are completely free of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilzers.

Starting seedlings: I place 1-2 seeds in each peat pot and keep them watered well until the sprouts appear and the seedlings have grown to an appropriate height (6 inches) and thickened slightly before transplanting into the garden. The seedlings also spend time outside during the day and then are brought in at night for a couple of days, then they are transferred outside with the protection of my mini greenhouse cold frames. Once all danger of frost has past (check your local forecast), the seedlings are planted near my garden structures.

Soil preparation: Tomatoes do best in loose, rich, well-drained soil, so make sure to work lots of compost into your beds before planting.

Planting: Tomatoes like warm soil and don’t tolerate frost, so wait until warm spring days arrive and soil temperatures reach above 60°F to plant.

Spacing: Plant tomatoes deeply, so the lowest set of leaves is at soil level, and press the soil down gently. Stake your tomatoes, leave about 1 to 3 feet between the plants. Plant spacing in ample garden space is fine, but in the raised bed garden, tomatoes are a little more crowded. I plan 4 plants at each garden structure so they can be staked (or tied) to the side of the structure.
Watering: Once all your plants are in the ground, water them well. To avoid problems with disease, water from the bottom and early in the day. Tomatoes need even moisture, though, so don’t let your beds dry out. Once the tomato plants are established, apply a thick mulch of straw, grass clippings, or composted leaves.

Fertilizing: As long as you’ve added compost to your beds before planting, you shouldn’t need to add any other fertilizer for tomatoes; although, I do fertilize everything else with fish emulsion so the tomatoes get it too.

Pests:If your plants’ stems are being chewed off, you might have cutworms. If you notice holes in the leaves of your tomato plants or big, fat, green caterpillars lolling on the plants, you’re probably dealing with tomato hornworms. Curled-down leaves and small pink, green, or black insects on leaf undersides signal aphids. To prevent insect infestation, remove any fruit with signs of damage as well as leaves. I also use a combination of pepermint and garlic oil to spray all foliage and fruit to deter insects.

Disease:If you spot speckles on any leaves (especially lower leaves) during the growing season, pinch off the affected leaves to reduce problems with early blight, late blight, and other leaf spot diseases. Blossom end rot is marked by a sunken, brownish black area at the blossom end of some of your tomatoes. At the end of the season, be sure to pull out and destroy or throw away (not on your compost pile, though) all of your tomato plants if they showed any signs of disease. Otherwise, the next season’s crop may be infected by disease organisms that survive the winter sheltered in the debris of the old crop.

Harvesting :Pick tomatoes when they just begin to change from orange to red. Gently twist the fruit off while holding the vine, then let the tomatoes finish ripening at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Don’t store them in your refrigerator because the cold temperature will cause them to lose flavor and texture.

Happy Gardening!

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