Monday, September 23, 2013

Garden -- tomatoes

Almost everybody wants to grow tomatoes but they are picky puppies so know what you are doing going in.

First, now that you know where the sun falls in your yard, you probably want to put in half a dozen tomato plants. 

BUT does that spot get sun by 8 in the morning in the summer?  If not, the dew won't dry fast enough and you could have problems with your plants.

AND how many spots like  that do you have in your yard?

Tomatoes have to be moved on a four-year plan.  If you grow tomatoes in the same place over and over, they will develop a disease that will turn the lower leaves brown.  Putting in new compost won't prevent the problem.  They have to be planted in a different part of the soil every year for four years.

And manure won't work either.  My guru, Mike McGrath, says manure is too rich for tomatoes.

Don't forget, you will need to save up eggshells before you plant.  Crush a dozen eggshells and put them under the soil to prevent blossom-end rot.

Finally, a little reminder.  In 2012, I think it was, gardeners found out that the tomato sets they bought from mass sellers like Lowe's had blight.  The potato blight that ruined the crop in the 1800s in Ireland and brought so many Irish to the U.S., had evolved into a version that could attack tomatoes, which are a distant relative of potatoes. 

I have always grown tomatoes from heirloom seeds which are open pollinated.  If fruit dropped into the ground, it was fertile and produced new plants the next year.  Of course, that ran up against the rotation issue above, but it was cool to find the volunteer plants in the garden and they even grew tomatoes.  If you're going to start from seed, you have to wait longer for your tomatoes, or you have to start them inside with a gro-light, but you avoid the blight problem.

Another thing you'll find out is that too hot a summer will keep the tomatoes from blossoming.  That happened in 2012 too.

Commercial tomato growers admit that they have bred all the flavor out of tomatoes in favor of something that travels well.  Grow your own and find out what tomatoes should really taste like.  But be prepared to baby them.

© Patricia Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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