Grow your own tomatoes
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Patience is a virtue
When it comes to planting tomatoes, you want a minimum, average daily temperature of 60°F.
In Epic Tomatoes, author Craig LeHoullier suggests using some sort of physical protection if you have a short growing season or if there is a chance for frost. Contact your local Cooperative Extension to determine average frost dates and weather conditions in your area.
Take away: jumping the gun on planting your tomatoes may stunt their development if conditions are not yet ideal. Waiting another few weeks could make all the difference.Date Published: February 10, 2015Date Updated: March 25, 2016
To ensure your tomatoes have the proper growing conditions to thrive, you should also test your soil for drainage and nutrient content.
If you have poor drainage add compost or leaf mulch to help with water retention. Checking your soil’s pH and making sure it has adequate nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is important. Knowing what type of soil you’re working with is crucial to altering the pH level and adding fertilizer.
Clay: The soil drains poorly, is sticky when wet and hard when dry
Sand: Sandy soil is lighter in color and has a gritty feel. While it drains well, nutrients can also wash away more easily.
Silt: Silt is categorized between clay and sand. It resembles flour when dry and is slipper when wet.
Loam: Loam soil is a mixture of sand, silt and clay with a fine texture.Date Published: February 10, 2015Date Updated: March 25, 2016
According to the University of California Cooperative Extension, the ideal pH is between 6.0 and 6.5. A soil’s alkalinity is the key component for plants to take in the necessary nutrients.
You can contact your local Cooperative Extension Service for a soil test and recommendations to achieve the correct pH levels.
Adding limestone will raise the pH, and adding sulfur will lower the soil’s alkalinity. Certain organic materials such as pine needles or peat moss can lower soil pH over time as well. Use this chart to find suggested amendments based on the original pH, the desired pH and the soil type.Date Published: February 10, 2015Date Updated: March 25, 2016
Fertilizer that’s low in nitrogen (N) and high in potassium (K) and phosphorus (P) is usually best for tomato plants.
If you do not do a soil test, the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service generally recommends adding one to two pounds of 10-20-10 for every 100 square feet.
If you do have your soil test results, you can lower or raise the components individually. Greensand or potash can be used to boost potassium. If the soil needs more phosphorus, you can add bonemeal or rock phosphate, and animal manure will provide nitrogen.Date Published: February 10, 2015Date Updated: March 25, 2016
The number of plants you should grow in an area is determined by the type and variety of the plant. Growing vertically allows for more vegetation per square feet. Air circulation is important when caging, and sprawling will take up the most room.
Vertically grown: 3 feet between plants and 4 feet between rows for indeterminate tomatoes
Caged: 2 feet between plants and 3 feet between rows for determinate or dwarf tomatoes
Sprawling: 4 feet between plants and 4 feet between rows for indeterminate plants.Date Published: February 10, 2015Date Updated: March 25, 2016
When it comes to pruning tomato suckers and caring for the plants during the growing season, Burpee.com offers a few tips for gardeners.
Snapping off the side shoots when using stakes is a common practice that results in earlier and larger tomatoes, but a smaller production.
Suckers are usually left on tomatoes grown in cages. It’s still a good idea to pinch the tip when they are 6-8 inches long.
For better air circulation, remove all growth from the bottom 6-10 inches of the plant. This helps reduce the spread of diseases.
Deformed foliage or sickly leaves should be removed as they may have a virus that can be spread to other plants.Date Published: February 10, 2015Date Updated: March 25, 2016
Mulch and water
Mulching can reduce hand weeding and hoeing. Hay, straw, grass clippings, black polyethylene sheeting or newspapers can be used to achieve this.
Tomato plants should get an inch of water a week during May and June, and at least two inches of water every week during July, August and September.Date Published: February 10, 2015Date Updated: March 25, 2016
Harvest is advisable when tomatoes are in the pink stage. In extreme heat, they will begin to turn yellow/orange on the vine. You can ripen tomatoes indoors for the desired color at about 70° F. When you want to stop the tomatoes from ripening, store them in the refrigerator for about one week.
If you prefer to leave it on the vine to fully ripen, you should remove the tomato while it is still firm.Date Published: February 10, 2015Date Updated: March 25, 2016
Canning and recipesDate Published: February 10, 2015Date Updated: March 25, 2016
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