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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rooting for Tomatoes!

Here's one quick trick on how to get the most from your tomato plants...

My sister-in-law shared this tomato planting trick. For the square foot method, plant the tomato root at the corner of one square and bury the stem (leaves removed) so the plant comes up in the center of the square. It will be laying on it's side for a few hours but will quickly grow up towards the sun. The buried stem will now grow additional roots creating a strong root system for the tomato. The same can be done in containers or in the garden, just bury the stem of the tomato plant and grow even more roots!

Organic Gardening magazine has some more fabulous tomato growing tips. Here are a few I'll highlight and the rest can be found here in the online article.

Pluck the first flowers.
Growing deep, extensive roots and a full leaf canopy will help establish newly transplanted tomatoes. Many experienced tomato growers pull off the first flowers, so the plant does not devote energy to forming fruit before its roots and foliage have filled out. Amy Goldman, who grows hundreds of heirloom tomatoes in her Rhinebeck, New York, garden each season, reports, "I pull off all the flowers until the plants reach at least 1 foot tall." She also pulls off all the suckers (shoots that emerge from the main stem below the first fruiting branch).

Feed the soil first.
Avoid the common mistake of overfeeding your tomatoes. They thrive in soil that's rich in humus for extensive, well-nourished root systems and potassium (K) for strong stems. Add too much nitrogen (N) and you'll have a big, lush plant with very little fruit.

Mulch for sure.
While plastic mulch has proved its worth, all-natural mulches also help tomatoes grow well. Surround your plants with a layer of straw, leaves, dried grass clippings or pine needles and it will keep the plants' roots cool, prevent weeds from sprouting around them and retain moisture in the soil. Because these mulches keep the soil cool, don't apply them until after the soil warms to 65 degrees F.

Warren Farm in Barrington, NH has also confirmed their PYO red or green tomatoes will remain $1/pound this year. Get your canning gear out! Sign up here for their mailing list to be kept up on when their vegetable and fruit harvests are ready. (Hint: strawberries are out in their farm stand already!)


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