Finally got to plant my tomatoes! So happy – have I told you that I WILL NOT eat fresh tomatoes from the grocery store? Nice canned tomatoes get us through the rest of the year, so by August, I could eat a BLT for lunch every day…
In four 4′ x 4′ raised beds, I was so happy to find light, airy, friable soil – until I really dug down… I like to plant tomatoes deep so I was really wishing for less clay 8 inches in.
This year, I did not sew my own plants – time got away from me, so I purchased plants:
- Burpee’s ‘Early Girl’ – not tried before but should produce sooner, it was certaily the only one flowering in the little pot
- Burpee’s ‘Better Boy’ – grow this EVERY year (Donny is not convinced that there is a better tomato, no matter how many heirlooms I try…), and it is easy to find so, other than expense, I don’t need to waste seedling space on growing my own
- ‘Black Russian’ – dark red/purple fruit that is supposed to have a smoky flavor; new to us
- ‘Old German’ – originally a Menonite variety and listed to have the "most perfect" flavor of the heirlooms – will see; looks pretty though – yellow with red/orange striations
So, here are my tips for planting tomatoes:
- Put them in deep – bury the first set of leaves, the nodes of those leaves will produce roots and offer a secure base for the plant which will get heavy
- Put in a deep watering system – I have stakes with drip holes that hold upside down 2-liter bottles (bottoms cut off so they look like a funnel); fill these so water reaches the roots to prevent Blossom End Rot which is seen as a black rotten spot on the bottom of the tomato – caused be inconsistent watering (which can happen when it gets hot and the garden doesn’t get 1" of rain per week)
- Surround the plants with a cage system early and make sure it is in deep – these plants, particularly if they are "indeterminate" as those above are, get very top heavy when the fruits grow large and can go down in a rain/wind storm…
- Pinch off all leaves that touch the ground to prevent viruses from spreading up form the soil or splashing rain/watering – in fact, if you see yellowiing bottom leaves, prune those and wash you hands before touching healthy leaves (in fact, if you are a smoker – wash well before touching any tomato plant – there is a tobacco virus! Serious as a heart attack!)
- Pinch out the little sprouts that appear between the main stem and the side limbs – why water extra leaves when the tomatoes themselves need the H2O? I think they also distract from fruiting – will need to check on that one…
- Monitor plants as they grow up through the cages to make sure the side branches have the chance to stay inside until large enough the grow out above the next level of rings
- Brush up on all your favorite recipes and then, be sure to eat the first ripe tomatoe while in the garden – like an apple!