Only two things that money can’t buy and that’s True Love and Homegrown Tomatoes. ~Guy Clark.
We’re trying a few different varieties of tomato this year including Black Krim and Cherokee Purple. Bringing back many old faves, as well, including Mr. Stripey, Jet Star, and of course, Brandywine. That particular potato-leafed heirloom is, perhaps, the most delicious tomato ever.
Already dreaming of BLT’s, fresh salsa and Caprese salads.
A few tips for growing tomatoes:
- Rotate your tomato plot every year, if possible, especially when growing heirloom varieties that may not have the disease resistance of hybrids. Pathogens can build up in your soil and take a heavy toll. Bacterial Spot and Early Blight make for a cruel summer.
- Prepare the bed with lots of compost–Happy dirt makes for happy tomatoes.
- A sheet of black plastic stretched out over the plot a couple of weeks before planting can warm the soil nicely and perhaps even kill a few potential pathogens in the dirt. Sometimes we leave the plastic in place, cut an “X” into it where the plants will go, and stick the plants down through the sheet and into the prepared bed. This keeps the soil toasty and keeps the weeds down. A little pine straw or similar layer of mulch on top of the plastic will keep the spray from bouncing up on the leaves when you water which aids in disease prevention.
- Bury the stems. Tomatoes will root anywhere along the stem, and more root equals a more vigorous plant. If you have room and the plant is flexible enough, try burying the stem horizontally. The soil is colder the deeper you go, and tomatoes are heat-lovers. If those roots can feel a little sunshine seeping through the dirt, they’ll be a cheerful lot.
- Prune those suckers. I’ve waffled in the “Prune/No-prune debate”, but I think I’m now firmly in the pruner camp. We plant our tomatoes fairly close to one another and pruning helps keep the plants open for better air circulation, which cuts down on the chance of disease. To prune, simply pinch off the sucker that starts to form in the axis of branches and the main stem.
- Apply mulch and nice, even watering. Inconsistent watering leads to cracking and blossom-end rot; no one wants rot on one’s blossom-end. A big drink once a week beats lots of little ones. Oh, and water the soil, not the leaves–this will help cut down on disease, as well.
- Plenty of sun and fertilizer. Tomatoes like lots of each. We use fish fertilizer–tres stinky, but gets the job done. Note: If you have raccoons in your neighborhood, though, fish fertilizer might be like ringin’ the dinner bell.
- Stake or cage them from the get-go. It might seem silly to stick a 6-foot stake next to an 8-inch plant but getting the stake (or cage) in at the beginning will make sure you don’t disrupt the roots as the plant starts to grow. I’ve procrastinated staking before, only to wrestle a rampant plant back under control, upsetting both me and the plant.