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Any tomato gardeners out there?

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  • Member since
    March 2015
  • From: Close to Chicago
Any tomato gardeners out there?
Posted by JohnnyK on Thursday, July 29, 2021 4:24 PM

In my opinion, home grown tomatoes are the eighth wonder of the world. I have been growing tomatoes for about 35 years. Last year I had an awful crop, so I decided to check out the internet for tomato gardener's tips. I love when gardeners share their gardening tips. Then I made some changes to this year's garden. I live in the Chicago area, so we cannot plant tomatoes until after Memorial Day due to the possibility of frost in late May. The evening temperature on May 28 was 29 degrees. 

I did a double dig in mid May. A double dig is hand cultivitating (digging) the garden soil to a depth of two feet. Yes, that is a lot of work. Next I dug in compost, chicken manure and organic fertilizer to the soil. I then let the soil feed on the goodies that I gave it for two weeks. 

After Memorial day I planted the tomatoes by digging holes that are two feet deep and two feet wide. BIG TIP--I put a handful of Rock Phosphate at the bottom of the hole. Rock Phosphate helps tomato plants develop strong roots and flowers. Next I pinched off the bottom row of leaves and planted the tomatoes deep. Tomatoes are one of the only plants that like to be planted deep. I watered the soil, not the leaves, with Miracle Grow Quick Start fertilizer and covered the soil with mulch and red tomato plastic. I also sprayed the plants with a copper fungicide to prevent Leaf Spot disease. The mulch conserves soil moisture and keeps the soil from splashing onto the leaves when it rains.

I planted Mums around the tomato plants to attract bees for polination.

Watering tips. Tomatoes love moist soil. I never let the soil get dry. Watering dry soil causes the tomato skin to crack. The mulch helps keep the soil stay moist. Never water the plants using an overhead sprinkler and never get the leaves wet. Wet leaves can cause Leaf Spot disease. I know, rain gets the leaves wet, but watering overhead can cause disease.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders. I fertilize once a week with liquid Texas Tomato Food. It is made from Kelp and is high in calcium which prevents blossom end rot. I also spray the tomatoes once a week with Bonide Blossom Set. This stops the flowers from falling off before they form a tomato.

BIG TIP. This year I picked the tomatoes before they are perfectly red. This prevents the skin from cracking and stops birds from poking holes in the tomatoes. I picked the tomatoes when they went from green to yellow. I put them in a paper bag with an apple. In about a week they are perfectly red.

It's time to pick the tomato in the center of the picture.

These were yellow in color about a week ago. Today they are perfectly red and ripe. No cracked skin and no holes.

So, did all of my hard work make a difference? I planted six tomato plants. After two months all the plants, except one, are about six feet high and there are about 15 to 20 tomatoes per plant (about 100 tomatoes total). The leaves are cleaner than past years, there are plenty of flowers and the tomatoes aren't cracked and do not have blossom end rot. So far, so good.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: USA
Posted by keavdog on Thursday, July 29, 2021 5:11 PM

Great stuff.  My wife and I are rookies with tomatoes.  First time a couple years ago we had a great crop of Roma and cherry tomatoes.  Past couple years have been hit and miss... and the damned squirrels....   This year heirloom tomato plant looks super healthy, lots of flowers but no tomatoes :/

They are in a small greenhouse to keep the squirrels away and it's been a hot summer.  Maybe we'll try some of your tips.

Thanks,

John

  • Member since
    March 2015
  • From: Close to Chicago
Posted by JohnnyK on Thursday, July 29, 2021 5:31 PM

keavdog

Great stuff.  My wife and I are rookies with tomatoes.  First time a couple years ago we had a great crop of Roma and cherry tomatoes.  Past couple years have been hit and miss... and the damned squirrels....   This year heirloom tomato plant looks super healthy, lots of flowers but no tomatoes :/

They are in a small greenhouse to keep the squirrels away and it's been a hot summer.  Maybe we'll try some of your tips.

 

What is the temperature inside the greenhouse? If the daytime temp is consistantly above 90 degrees and the night temp is consistantly above 75 degrees the plants will not pollinate. Are bees allowed to enter the greenhouse? If there are no bees there will be no pollination. However, you could try vibrating the flowers with an electric toothbrush to simulate the vibration caused by bees. I'm not kidding. Give this a try. https://laidbackgardener.blog/2016/08/08/pollinate-your-tomatoes-with-a-toothbrush/#:~:text=In%20situations%20like%20these%2C%20toothbrush%20pollination%20can%20be,flower%20and%20turn%20it%20on%20a%20few%20seconds.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: USA
Posted by keavdog on Thursday, July 29, 2021 5:38 PM

Well above 90 daily.  It's 98 outside today so maybe 110 or so in the greenhouse and thats pretty much daily for the past 3 weeks.  Not sure of the nighttime temps, but we drop to mid 60s at night in the summer.  We open the door and there's a vent that opens on the roof so bees can get it, but we don't see a lot.  If tried fiddling with the flowers a bit, but the electric toothbrush is interesting.  

Not sure how to cool it down in there.  Maybe next year we'll plant outside and figure out a way to keep the squirrels away.

Thanks,

John

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Thursday, July 29, 2021 5:41 PM

I've given up as the temperature is consistently too low where I live. A mile away, no problem. So I drive a mile for my tomatoes at the Farmer's markets.

I can however grow artichokes in quantity in the cool fog.

(covid beard is no more)

Bill

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    August 2019
  • From: Central Oregon
Posted by HooYah Deep Sea on Thursday, July 29, 2021 7:14 PM

Don't look at me, I'm doing potatoes and chives. But I heard from guys on another forum I visit that epsom salts are good for tomatoes. I might try that next year.

"Why do I do this? Because the money's good, the scenery changes and they let me use explosives, okay?"

  • Member since
    April 2009
  • From: Longmont, Colorado
Posted by Cadet Chuck on Thursday, July 29, 2021 8:29 PM

This is all very interesting!  Some years we get a great harvest, but this year it looks like another  bust.  Don't see many bees around-

Actually, I have found it easier to go to the farmers' market, and buy some locally grown tomatoes.  They always have a lot of nice ones.

Computer, did we bring batteries?.....Computer?

  • Member since
    March 2015
  • From: Close to Chicago
Posted by JohnnyK on Friday, July 30, 2021 1:02 PM

GMorrison

I've given up as the temperature is consistently too low where I live. A mile away, no problem. So I drive a mile for my tomatoes at the Farmer's markets.

I can however grow artichokes in quantity in the cool fog.

(covid beard is no more)

Bill

 

Nice looking artichokes. Do you live along the Pacific coast? I know that the fog keeps the temps down in the Summer. Question about the hat. Do you own a BMW?

John

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Friday, July 30, 2021 1:36 PM

We live in Carmel, CA. Just south of Monterey.

Yes, my latest one is a 1994 540i.

Looks like this one.

Bill

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    May 2011
  • From: Honolulu, Hawaii
Posted by Real G on Friday, July 30, 2021 2:39 PM

I don't know much about tomatoes, but I learned what leaf miners were when my sister tried to grow them!  She got one good crop, and then the birds came.  They pecked every one.  Didn't know about picking them when yellow.  We waited till they were nice and red, and then - the birds.  Devil

“Ya ya ya, unicorn papoi!”

  • Member since
    March 2013
Posted by patrick206 on Friday, July 30, 2021 3:28 PM

My wife is pretty set on her tomato gardening routine, as follows. This year she did the usual greenhouse starts, total of eight plants, two Sungold cherry and six Early Girls. We're in wet western Oregon, but with the greenhouse having regulated temperature control, she gets by until she transplants to the garden beds.

We have a Honda tiller, the beds get tilled at the start and end of each season. She plants them in two foot holes, among other nutrients she uses egg shells. I read your ingredient list to her, she agrees with everything but the Miracle Grow, for whatever reason she considers it maybe having excessive chemical content.

She surrounds the plants with herbs like dill, rosemary, thyme, etc. The flowering does attract bees, plus we have two apple trees about 15 feet away, they really bring the bees on. She waters every day, like you being careful to not get the leaves wet, watering the base with a sprinkler can.

They produce huge crops, lots eaten raw, the rest we cook with Italian herbs and old vine Zinfandel, canning our usual 30 quarts for the coming year. They are easily my favorite produce from the garden.

She said your gardening efforts look really well done. Thanks for the post and photos.

Patrick

  • Member since
    August 2015
Posted by Modeltruckbuilder on Friday, July 30, 2021 4:07 PM
Tomatoes give me agita
  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Towson MD
Posted by gregbale on Friday, July 30, 2021 4:33 PM

It's the local farmers market for my decidedly non-agrarian self...but I recall my mother planting her tomatoes 'back in the day' spiked with manure from the neighbors' chickens, and they grew like topsy, baseball to softball size. Tomato sandwiches of Wonder bread and thick ripe tomato slices dusted with salt, pepper and a dash of oregano were a memorable summer treat.

Nothing beats home- or locally-grown for tomatoes that taste like real tomatoes, versus the bland, 'white stuff' core-flavored ones from the supermarket.

Greg

George Lewis:

"Every time you correct me on my grammar I love you a little fewer."
 
  • Member since
    July 2014
  • From: Franklin Wi
Posted by Bakster on Friday, July 30, 2021 5:11 PM

I love eating tomatoes, as close as i get.

 

  • Member since
    July 2003
  • From: NEVER USE PHOTO BUCKET - IT'S A THREAD WRECKER.
Posted by disastermaster on Friday, July 30, 2021 5:40 PM

My momma loved watching anything grow.....especially tomatoes.

I miss her.

  • Member since
    January 2015
  • From: Katy, TX
Posted by Aggieman on Friday, July 30, 2021 9:58 PM

Last year we ended up with more tomatoes than we could eat, so we ended up giving a lot away. This year we got maybe a dozen. The wife can be rather helper-shelter over how she plants. Often times she just puts out seeds without really separating them properly, which was the case this year. We have something growing that I have been calling day of the triffids in how it has pretty much taken over. And just this week we found out what seeds she had planted - cantaloupe and honey dew. That is a first for us.

  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Saturday, July 31, 2021 7:32 AM

Oh My!

 Those are Gorgeous " Chokes"

  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Saturday, July 31, 2021 7:35 AM

We have elevated Planters;

     Now that said. I almost got sick on our Marble sized little red guys. I eat them like candy when watching T.V. or reading! Our Big " Uns" wind up in all kinds of situations that they are known for. Nothing Beats fresh produce, Period!

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Denver
Posted by tankboy51 on Saturday, July 31, 2021 10:05 AM

My wife realy dislikes tomatoes, cheese, and other things.  They are on my " avoid" list of food by my dietian also.   We have a strong dislike for growing things.   We just buy what we need and let others do the labor.

  • Member since
    March 2015
  • From: Close to Chicago
Posted by JohnnyK on Saturday, July 31, 2021 10:30 AM

GMorison,

Nice car. I'll bet that that car is fun to drive on PCH.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Saturday, July 31, 2021 10:53 AM

We grow a lot of stuff. Squash, green onions, leeks, Walla Walla onions, arugula, some lettuce.

No peppers, berries or toms though.

There's a fairly organized share co-op on my street because we live in an older neighborhood and some people have heirloom fruit trees. Cherries, plums, apricots, lemons.

i commute 20 miles mostly through farm lands, unless I take the Beemer out the valley way.

This month was a harvest of green row crops. Lettuce, chard, broccoli. A sad thing is that commercial farming only yields about 60% of the crop for market. This I know from a friend of mine who is the farm operations manager for a huge business in Salinas.

Look at a picked lettuce field and there are heads, partial heads and small plants everywhere. There are occasional efforts to organize gleaning operations, but the difficulties of access to private property, pesticide exposure and safety of the fields themselves tie it all up. Farm operations dislike the idea.

Well, John.That car doesn't know what a parking lot is. I have a space at work, otherwise it goes on round trips. Speaking of work, in addition to my big projects (hospitals and we are super busy redesigning for the October surge ); I'm renovating a 1949 mid-century modern house that was designed by the founder of our firm.

Bill

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    October 2016
  • From: .
Posted by DasBeav on Saturday, July 31, 2021 11:52 AM

Nice Post, JohnnyK. I am going to try the paper bag idea.

I grow mostly Roma and San Marzanos, along with peppers of all types for my chili and spaghetti sauce. This year the plants started out looking the best they ever had. Then North Central Ohio got two weeks of nothing but rain. The leaf mulch I put down to keep moisture in and suppress weeds turned into a swamp. Some plants died and others looking no so great, I still should have a decent crop, but not the bumper crop I was expecting.

Next year I will be doing mounding with the leaf mulch between rows and grass clippings on top of mounds. 

 Sooner Born...Buckeye Bred.

 

  • Member since
    March 2015
  • From: Close to Chicago
Posted by JohnnyK on Saturday, July 31, 2021 12:16 PM

DasBeav,

Do you grow the San Marzanos from seed? I have never seen those plants for sale at a nursery.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

  • Member since
    October 2016
  • From: .
Posted by DasBeav on Saturday, July 31, 2021 1:27 PM

JohnnyK

DasBeav,

Do you grow the San Marzanos from seed? I have never seen those plants for sale at a nursery.

 

I buy them from a family owned nursery about a half mile from my house. I have to ask them to order them.  They get many of their plants from a large semi-commercial nursery which is about 20 miles away. It's huge and has everything. 

 Sooner Born...Buckeye Bred.

 

  • Member since
    December 2008
  • From: UK
Posted by PatW on Saturday, July 31, 2021 1:42 PM

My wife does cherry tomatoes as she likes them small for salads, I'm not a fan of them, and Peppers in a small greenhouse, as we have a small garden we grow pototoes and carrots in tall bags. When we in our early twenties and there were four of us I grew almost everything on a plot of 1/3rd of a acre, Potatoes, cabbages, cauliflowers, peas, green beans, broad beans, sweetcorn, tomatoes, cucumbers, a few other things. It was far cheaper than buying them but you had to be patient. 

But the flavours of any of them were superb as soon as they were harvested and cooked!

Store/supermarket Veg sometimes have no flavour because they are produced in such huge quantities flavour didn't come into it.

Remember , common sense is not common.

  • Member since
    March 2015
  • From: Close to Chicago
Posted by JohnnyK on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 2:09 PM

This is a single day's harvest.

I'll bet you won't find a tomato that color in the super market.

This is the fertilizer that I used this year.  Rich in calcium to prevent blossem end rot (this stuff really works). Made from bat guano (bat poop), worm casts (more poop), kelp,  mycorrhizar (fungus that feeds the plant's roots), hurmic acid (decomposed remains of organic life), enzymes and minerals. I wouldn't eat this stuff but the tomatoes seem to like it.

One more important tip regarding tomatoes. NEVER put a tomato in the refrigerator. The cold temperature will suck the flavor out of the tomato. That is one reason why market tomatoes have no flavor. They were transported in refridgerated railcars or refrigerated trucks. They were probably stored in a cooler.

 

 

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: USA
Posted by keavdog on Monday, August 9, 2021 10:17 PM
So I moved the tomatoes out of the green house, rigged up some fine bird netting to help keep the squirrels out and re-plumbed the drip system.  After a couple of weeks we now have 8 tomatoes that I can see!  They definitely like the cooler temps - great tip.

Thanks,

John

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Monday, August 9, 2021 10:39 PM

JohnnyK
I wouldn't eat this stuff but the tomatoes seem to like it

Hmm, not sure how that works...

But, it sounds like good stuff.

 

Bill

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    September 2006
  • From: Bethlehem PA
Posted by the Baron on Tuesday, August 10, 2021 9:26 AM

When I was a kid, my dad kept a garden and we grew tomatoes, among other things, and we found that the best fertilizer was horse manure.  We had a friend who kept horses, and every spring, we'd muck out his stables and get a truckload of manure.  We tilled that into the patch, and it gave really good, crumbly, fertile soil.

The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.

 

 

  • Member since
    March 2015
  • From: Close to Chicago
Posted by JohnnyK on Tuesday, August 10, 2021 12:50 PM

keavdog
So I moved the tomatoes out of the green house, rigged up some fine bird netting to help keep the squirrels out and re-plumbed the drip system.  After a couple of weeks we now have 8 tomatoes that I can see!  They definitely like the cooler temps - great tip.
 

That's great news.

Keep an eye out for blossom end rot

This is caused by a lack of calcium in the soil. I used to have a real proble with blossem end rot until I started to fertilize with "Texas Tomato Food". Texas Tomato Food has a lot of calcium which completely stopped the blossom end rot.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

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