Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tomato planting tips!

Well, I have been negligent in my blogging. I really wanted to keep track of my garden through my blog and share with others what I do.....just because people ask me a lot of questions, even though I consider myself a novice gardener.

Anyway, if you read my transplanting post, my seedlings have been inside up until a few weeks ago.  Once the weather started getting nice, I put them out during the day in a somewhat sheltered spot.  Make sure they are well-watered or they will dry out and wilt quickly in the sun!  Wind is a huge factor too....they can get wind-burned if you aren't careful.  Ask me how I know.

This week, I finally actually put my seedlings in my garden.  They were probably outside for 3 days, then back in for 5 days because it was pouring out.   Then the weather finally normalized and they were out for 5-7 days straight.  I left them out at night after that until I was ready to plant them. 

I wanted to document some things I have learned over the years about planting tomatoes. 

1)  Dig a hole about 8-12" deep.  Put a handful of Epsom Salt in the bottom of the hole.  I don't know what this does, but the one year I did it, I had fabulous tomato plants.  We'll see if it works again.

2) Snip off the lower branches of the seedling and plant all the way up to the remaining branches.  The plant will root all along the stem and this gives a nice deep root system to your plant.

3) Use sturdy tomato cages.  I have used cheap ones and they fall over.  I have built my own wooden ones, but if there is any disease in your soil or tomatoes, this will cause it to spread.  I have used single stakes but I felt like I was constantly trying to keep the tomato tied to the stake.  Use sturdy tomato cages.

4) Borage is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes.  I always try to plant some with my tomatoes and it seriously cuts down on Tomato Horn Worms!  I have had years where I have pulled up to 100 THW off of my plants, but every year I plant borage with my tomatoes, I have pulled off probably under 10!   

5) Mulch with hay or something similar around the base of your plants and bottom-water them.  Water splashing up from the soil can spread any diseases up into your plant!  Rain is fine, but if YOU are going to water, do it at the base, not with a sprinkler or from the top.  My garden is conveniently (inconveniently?) located next to my goat shed, so my plan is to pour out the leftover water each AM at the base of each tomato.  One year we (and everyone else, I think) had a MAJOR wilt problem.  We got zero tomatoes that year.  It was a very rainy summer and the water just splashed and spread the wilt up on the whole plant.  In subsequent years, the wilt remained in the soil.  I did a lot of research and found out how to curtail it; mulching and bottom-watering seem to be the trick.  I even started a new plot just to get my tomatoes into fresh soil.  This year I am going back into my old plot - after about 5 years and that many seasons of compost (and mulch and bottom-watering), I am hoping they will do well.

6) The last of my tomato tips.  One year it was pretty late in the season and all of my tomatoes stayed green.   I found out that if you cut a semi-circle into the soil, about 6-12" from the base of each plant, you can force the tomatoes to turn.  I would only do this if you have multiple fully-formed green tomatoes on your plant that have been that way for a looong time.  I am not sure if it would hinder the production of further fruit...but if everything is green and it's getting late in the season, you can do this multiple times to get the fruit to turn.  Don't cut all the way around the plant, and I wouldn't do it more than once a week or so.

That's all I have for now.  I hope to add pictures....maybe at some point.