Home garden tomato reminders
I will be the first to admit that most vegetable gardeners already have their tomato plants in the ground, but some readers may not. Also, others may plant some later tomatoes for their gardening efforts. Today, I would like to share some reminders on this vegetable garden favorite.
At the Bowman place, my grandfather would always plant the Better Boy variety. That is basically what we have always stuck with on the farm. I am not saying that Better Boys are the best tomatoes on the market, but I am imply- ing that tomato varieties can become a family tradition. Clients may ask which is the best to plant and my reply is that the best is their personal preference. It is a good idea to try a few new varieties every once in a while and also to use some varieties that have some disease resistance. I will be sharing information from a UGA publication by Bob Westerfield, UGA Extension Horticulturist.
When you plant tomatoes, remember that the plants need a spot that will give six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Ideally, the spot will give at least eight hours of sunlight. Tomatoes will perform best when the temperature is between 70-80 degrees F. Plants will do better in welldraining soils that have high organic matter content with a pH in the 6.2-6.8 range. You may notice that some people will plant tomatoes in early April and try to be the first with a vine ripe tomato in the neighborhood. You are better off planting after the last fear of frost, which is middle April. Tomatoes like a warm soil and normally planting too early will end up with a plant that can be stunted or with some root issues due to being planted in cold and damp soil. Tomatoes should perform great right now.
Right now, the easiest thing to do is to purchase tomato transplants. Growing from seed will take a while now so select healthy plants for your garden spot. Tomato plants can have great root development by their ability to form roots all along the stem. This is why we suggest planting them deep. It is suggested to set the transplants down to the first set of true leaves near the soil surface.
At planting, tomatoes will need a light fertilizer. Our literature suggests a starter solution that you can make yourself. According to Westerfield, pour one pint of a starter solution around each plant. The solution can be two tablespoons of 5-10-10 or 5-10-5 fertilizer dissolved in one gallon of water. You need to be mindful of over fertilization of tomato plants. Many times clients will call about having beautiful green plants with little to no tomato formation on the vine. Many of these issues can go back to the plants being fertilized too often. You will end up with a plant that is thinking vegetative and not reproductive so you get limited tomatoes. You can see over-fertilization with some of the liquid soluble fertilizers if the client does not follow the label properly.
Keep in mind that tomatoes are a medium feeder plant and will need additional fertilization. Note that a soil test taken months before planting is ideal in taking care of your nutritional needs. If you choose to not conduct a soil test, you can incorporate 1.5 pounds of 1010-10 for 100 square feet prior to planting. After plants set tomatoes about the size of a quarter, you can side-dress the plants with 10-10-10 at the rate of one pound per 100 square feet of bed space. You can sidedress every three to four weeks in the growing season after that quarter size fruit set.
You need to be prepared to irrigate you plants in absence of rainfall. First, in planting site selection you need to plant close to a clean water source. Tomatoes need one to two inches of water per week depending on the soil type to perform. I would have a rain gauge in order to keep up with rainfall.
When you irrigate, I suggest one or two heavy soaks instead of light irrigation events. I know I say this often, but soaker hoses or drip irrigation is much better than sprinklers. If you must use a sprinkler, please only do so after dew has set after dark or in the early morning hours. We need dry foliage to cut down on risk of disease. I will add quickly, that a two - three inch layer of mulch can help control weeds and help conserve soil moisture. If you are going to use any straw, hay or even manures as a fertilizer in your garden spot, please make sure it is from an herbicide free source. I see more and more herbicide injured plants and it is not from spray drift, but from material the client added to the garden and the resulting herbicide residue activity. For more information, contact UGA ExtensionGordon County at 706619-8685 or email email@example.com.