Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tomato Growing Basics

Hello again!

This article is taken from I found the article back in January but I have kept it at my fingertips to post now because it covers some really neat basics for any tomato gardener.

We have some tomato plants now and will have our full array of plants very shortly. We also recommend planting the tomatos with a nice organic garden food such as Tomato Tone or Garden Tone by Espoma. These foods work at improving the soil structure which will greatly improve the roots of your plants. Better roots means MORE tomatos!

Here is the article:

"Always remember that tomatoes are a subtropical plant, although careful breeding has produced some varieties that tolerate shorter days and cooler temperatures. Early tomatoes need everything you can do to keep them warm: row-cover tunnels, black or red plastic mulch, and/or Wall-o'-Water enclosures. The seeds like warm soil, too.

There are two types of tomato: determinate, and indeterminate. Determinate plants will grow to a certain height (usually two or three feet), and stop; they produce almost all their fruit at once. Indeterminate types grow very tall, often as high as six or eight feet, and sometimes more if they have support; they produce fruit constantly through the season. At any one time, indeterminates will have fruit at all stages of development and ripeness.

Tomatoes like rich soil and will grow happily in straight undiluted compost. Go easy with the manure, though, because too much nitrogen (from manure) will get you huge plants and very few tomatoes. Always mix a cup or more of bonemeal into the planting hole, because tomatoes need calcium and that's the organic way to give it to them. A foliar spray (wetting the leaves) of fish-seaweed fertilizer solution gives transplants a welcome boost.

Tomatoes are vulnerable to several diseases and insects, including (but not limited to!) verticillium wilt, two races of fusarium wilt, nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, and alternaria blight. Look for tomato varieties that are resistant to these diseases, abbreviated respectively as V, F, N, T, and A. (V = verticillium, and so on.) Disease resistance is usually shown after the name, for example "LaRoma II VFFNA" which means that it is resistant (but not immune) to verticillium wilt, both races of fusarium wilt, nematodes, and alternaria blight.

Healthy plants will survive longer than weak ones, but if your tomato plants get a disease, here's what to do: Remove the plant promptly, roots, soil and all, put it into a large garbage bag, and take it to the dump. Do not add the plant to a compost heap, and do not leave it lying around. These diseases are easily spread! Keep smokers away from your plants, because they carry tobacco mosaic virus on their hands and clothing. (This advice probably better refers to late blight--we have several articles about late blight tagged at this post. Mildews, black spots in the center, or yellowing of leaves does not call for such extreme steps. We have several all natural products like "Serenade" that deal effectively with mildews, etc.)

There is a spectacularly large caterpillar, called the tomato hornworm, that will eat leaves and fruit if you let it, and grow into a hawk moth. They're hard to spot, despite their size, but they will scatter piles of dark green poop (about the size of rice grains) that give them away. Find, pick, drop and stomp is the best solution. Some small insects, such as whitefly, can be a nuisance (and disease carriers) but sprays of horticultural soap solution get rid of them fairly easily. We have several solutions for these situations.

Water deeply, regularly, and at root level. Mature plants need about two quarts a day, ideally at around 65F. Avoid wetting the leaves, which encourages diseases. Allowing plants to dry out between waterings stresses them and results in weak plants that succumb easily to insects or diseases. It also causes tomatoes to split, which attracts fruit flies. Some fish-seaweed fertilizer can be mixed in with the irrigation water, at half the recommended strength. "

As always let us know at Skillin's ( if you have any tomato or other gardening questions!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 15, 2010

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