Tomatoes: Advice about a garden staple PDF Print E-mail
Written by By BILL RYAN Sentinel Garden Editor   
Thursday, 04 June 2009 08:25
For many people, it wouldn't be summer without going to their garden or backyard and picking a fresh tomato from one of their own plants.
While many people already have their favorite tomatoes planted and growing, Lisa Cook, a Wood County master gardener from Perrysburg, says it is not too late to plant some at their home. She even has a solution for those with limited sunlight and space.
Cook says most tomato plants need lots of sunlight, at least six hours a day. For those people who don't have one area that gets that volume of light, she suggests growing the tomatoes in a pot or planter which can be moved during the day to follow the sunlight.
The master gardeners says that though tomatoes can be grown from seed, it is quicker and easier to use plants purchased from nurseries or greenhouses which can be transplanted.
"It's still a good investment to do it that way," she said of the cost involved with plants over seeds.
A wide variety of tomatoes are available and will grow well in this area.
Cook noted the difference between determinate and indeterminate plants. Determinate plants feature tomatoes which all ripen at one time. Cook says she has four such, roma tomatoes, which she will use for canning purposes.
She also has six other indeterminate plants which will be used for eating as is or in cooking or other recipes around the house.
What type and how many to plant at your house would vary from home to home based on needs and usage within the family.
However, Cook suggested growing extras which can be used to give to family, friends and perhaps food banks "to share your harvest."
Care in planting
When transplanting your newly purchased tomato plants, Cook said to note the little hair-like items along the stem. If those are put below the ground each of those "hairs" will become roots to better feed your tomatoes.
Her suggestion is to remove all the bottom leaves, leaving only two sets of leaves at the top, and bury the remainder of the plant in the ground in order to develop a better root system.
"It also helps the plant be more stable," she stated.
She also recommends having nutrient-rich soil. This can be accomplished by adding compost and manure to help in feeding your tomatoes.
"Tomatoes are hungry feeders," she said.
Cook also adds egg shells to the soil when planting to provide additional calcium for the plant and its fruit.
While it may not be necessary, depending on the soil conditions, the additional calcium may help prevent "blossom end rot," a condition which is manifested by the blossom end of the tomato looking black and sunken-in.
One new item she also started putting in with the soil this year is one aspirin tablet.
"Supposedly if your tomatoes are prone to any viruses, an aspirin will help with the immunity," Cook said. "I don't know if that works, but its not going to hurt the tomato, so why not try it."
The aspirin will trigger the plants natural defenses against bacteria and viruses.
Like the old adage of chicken soup for the sick, "it may not help but it couldn't hurt."
She said "aspirin is cheap enough, so why not?"
Watering
Cook suggests monitoring how much rain is received.
An inch of rain during the week should be enough for your tomatoes," Cook said.
"Don't let your tomatoes go for several days or week in dry conditions," she continued.
However, she also says that shallow daily waterings are also not good for the plants.
"You should deep water once a week," she said if there has not been adequate rain.
Cages and stakes
As a note, she also recommends using cages or other stakes to support the tomato plants, especially the indeterminate ones as they can grow rather tall.
"They can really get out of control if you don't stake them," she affirmed.
"Typically, I don't like regular tomato cages. They're not sturdy enough," Cook said.
Rather she fashions her own cage supports using heavy-gauge wire fencing which is then formed into a cylinder and attached to T-posts. Cook says she uses T-posts as that's what she has available; however any stake which fencing can be attached is fine if it works.
By using a cage or stake, the plant can remain steady through the common heavy winds of this area.
Though she does caution the holes be large enough in the support to be able to get to the tomatoes.
Planning
Cook also suggests planning your tomatoes by selection of types and planting dates to assure a fresh crop of tomatoes throughout the season for salads, sandwiches, cooking and canning.
Maturity times are available on the tags at the nurseries or garden center when purchasing your tomatoes.
Check the tag, get a variety and look for the details on the tag to assure you have a healthy supply of tomatoes all summer long.
Last Updated on Thursday, 04 June 2009 08:42
 

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