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Its Tomato Time !!!!!

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  • Member since
    March 2015
  • From: Close to Chicago
Its Tomato Time !!!!!
Posted by JohnnyK on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 4:01 PM

I have been planting tomatoes for 50 years. Last year I harvested over 300 tomatoes from six tomato plants. I'd like to share my tips and tricks for growing tomatoes.

I live in the Chicago area. It is possible to experience a killer frost all the way up to Memorial Day. I do not plant annuals or tomatos before Memorial Day. 

Gardening Safety: Make sure that your Tetanus booster is up to date. Tetanus can kill. Always wear gloves, leather shoes/boots and knee pads when gardening. It is not unlikely to find broken glass, nails, screws, wood, etc in garden soil.

Prepare your soil: Good soil will produce a good harvest. Poor soil will produce a poor harvest. Most people ignore preparing their soil prior to planting. This is understandable because it takes a lot of effort to prepare soil. Last year I did a "double dig" in my tomato garden. I hand dug the soil to a depth of two feet and added compost. This only needs to be done every five tears.

In the Fall I planted "Hairy Vetch" in my tomato soil as a Winter cover crop. This plant actually "fixes" nitrogen into the soil as it grows (up to 200 pounds of Nitrogen per acre). In the Spring I turn over The Hairy Vetch in the area where my tomato plants will be planted. Chicago tends to have a lot of clay in the soil. Clay is nonorganic and tomato plants will not grow in clay. Poor quality soil can be fixed by adding compost and organic dry fertilizer to the soil. I do not use a tiller when mixing my soil. Instead, I use a shovel. It is easy to over-till soil using a tiller. Over-tilled soil adds too much oxygen to the soil which kills anaerobic bacteria. The tiller also kills worms. Plus its easy to turn soil into a powder when using a tiller. Powerdered soil turns rock hard when it dries. Good soil is crumbly (see below).

  

 

Planting: Always buy your tomato plants from a reputable garden center. Big Box stores tend to let their plants dry out too much. Buy healthy plants. Ignore plants with yellow or brown leaves. I buy my plants in quart containers. Dig a big hole (see the picture above). Small holes result in poor results.

I also put a handful of Rock Phosphate (not super phosphate) in the bottom of the hole. Rock Phosphate promotes root growth. Big, health roots will produce big healthy tomato plants. 

Tomatoes are one of the few plants that like to be planted deep. I break off the lower leaves and bury half of the stem in the soil. Roots will grow out from the stem. Remove all "ties" and tags from the stem. It goes without saying to remove the plastic pot. I know a person that did not do that and complained about a poor tomato harvest.

I mix Miracle-Gro Garden Soil into my my soil in an effort to increase the organic contentant of the soil. I also add organic tomato fertilizer to the soil. Water the plants deeply. 

I also feed the newly planted plants with Mircle-Gro Quick Start. 

This is the newly planted garden. Hairy Vetch is between the tomato plants and acts like an organic mulch. The only thing left to do is the add mulch around the plants to prevent wet soil from splashing onto the leaves of the plants.

Temperature: Tomato plants shut down when the temperature gets below 55 degrees. Tomato plants stop producing flowers when the temperature gets above 95 degrees. 

Watering and Fetilizing: Okay everyone, wake up. This is important. NEVER GET THE LEAVES WET when watering the plants. I know that that sounds dumb considering that rain gets the leaves wet, but wet leaves produce fungus diseases. Instead, water the soil, not the plant. Also, don't splash wet soil onto the plants leaves when watering. I use a watering wand with a soaker setting. 

Tomatoes are big feeders and require fertilization. I use "Texas Tomato Food". This stuff has a lot of calcium which prevents "Blossom End Rot". Last year I only had about five tomatoes with Blossom end-rot. 

That's it! Have fun gardening.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

  • Member since
    January 2020
  • From: Maryland
Posted by wpwar11 on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 5:23 PM

Nothing like a good tomato.  I used to live in Philadelphia and the job would send me to south Jersey often.  I loved stopping at some road side stand and buying  the local tomatoes.  Firm, perfectly ripe, and delicious.  You could eat them like apples.  A little salt and you had a real treat.

Thanks for sharing and good luck with your plants.  

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Western North Carolina
Posted by Tojo72 on Thursday, May 26, 2022 10:38 AM

My wife usually grows a few on our lower deck in raised planters.

  • Member since
    October 2004
  • From: Orlando, Florida
Posted by ikar01 on Thursday, May 26, 2022 9:01 PM

While we were stuck in Minot we planted some in our relocatable house and supported them with the wire cages.  We ended up with a table full and I took some in to my squadron for others to have.

  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Monday, May 30, 2022 2:32 PM

Wpwar11;

        We have been getting those little, what I call Pearl Tomatoes(ToMahtoes?) for about two months now. I pop them just like candy, Durned sight healthier too!

  • Member since
    January 2020
  • From: Maryland
Posted by wpwar11 on Wednesday, June 1, 2022 8:02 PM

Yeah TB that's good eating.  Enjoy the tasty little treats.  A guy in my club, Southern Maryland Scale Modelers, is from New Braunfels.  Small world.  

  • Member since
    March 2015
  • From: Close to Chicago
Posted by JohnnyK on Saturday, June 18, 2022 12:06 PM

 

 

My tomato plants have been in the ground for three weeks and they have really grown. Nice big healthy plants.

The plants are producing a lot of flowers. However, the flowers are not turning into fruit because it is too damn hot!!!! Last week the day temperatures were in the 90's and the night temperatures were in the low 80's. The pollen in the flowers becomes nonviable when the day temperatures are above 85 and night temperatures are above 75. The forecast for this coming week has day temperatures in the upper 80's and low 90's for six days in a row. I am considering buying shade cloth to keep the plants cooler.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

  • Member since
    March 2015
  • From: Close to Chicago
Posted by JohnnyK on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 2:34 PM

Let's talk about pollination in tomato plants. Tomato flowers are self-pollinating. They have both male and female parts. All that needs to happen for fruit production is that the pollen needs to be released from the male parts onto the female parts. Wind can do this and so can bees. Both of these are hit and miss. A better solution is to use an electric toothbrush. The vibration of an electric toothbrush mimics the vibration of a bee's wings. Commecial tomato growers have been using this technique for years with great success. 

All you need to do is touch the vibrating toothbrush to the flower until it vibrates. This vibration will knock the pollen loose. This technique will easily double or triple your fruit production.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

  • Member since
    May 2013
  • From: Indiana, USA
Posted by Greg on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 3:06 PM

Ok, Johnny, I think I shall try this.

If I go quiet, it would likely be because my wife saw me out there with the Sonicare ........and had me committed.

Our first cherry tomato (a Sugar Rush, if it's what it's supposed to be) is beginning to ripen, and we are pretty excited. This is both of our first year as farmers.  (having 2 potted tomato plants). Big Smile

-Greg

  • Member since
    March 2015
  • From: Close to Chicago
Posted by JohnnyK on Thursday, June 23, 2022 9:44 AM

I'll be interested to see how that works for you.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

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