Monday, May 24, 2010

How We Plant Tomatoes

Notice the title of this post is how "we" plant tomatoes - not how "to" plant tomatoes. From what I see others do and what I've read online - what we do and what you are suppose to do aren't exactly the same.  We usually opt for the easy way - I'm sure we will reap what we sow!

Here's a run down of how we plant tomatoes.

Choosing Tomato Plants
There are a lot of varieties to choose one.  We usually choose common, trusted varieties that have worked for us before.  This year we bought:
  • Beefsteak - indeterminant, 80 days
  • Better Boy - indeterminant, 70 days
  • Early Girl - indeterminant, 62 days
  • Roma - determinant, 75 days
Indeterminants will keep producing tomatoes until frost kills the plants.  Indeterminants are often tall, vining plants that need staking.

Determinants will produce one set of tomatoes, once they're done, that's it. They're usually bush style plants that don't need much staking (check the label).  

For a more detailed explanation see Garden Web.

Both types and all varieties like full sun.  In our back yard, we've always had good luck with tomatoes right up against the house on the south side.

Hardening off Tomatoes
Tomato plants from a store or greenhouse have likely been indoors all their life.  To give these plants the best chance of making it in the garden, "harden off" your plants by gradually introducing them to more and more sunlight each day.

Our "hardening off" involved putting the plants on the patio one hot, sunny day.  We call it shock therapy!

When to Plant Tomatoes in Zone 2b
Tomatoes are warm weather plants.  They like warm soil and do not tolerate any frost.  For us that usually means after May 24.  Last year, I covered my tomato plants on June 5 due to frost warnings.  We planted ours on May 20 this year.

Preparing the Soil
Our gardening neighbours do an amazing job of preparing their tomato beds.  They work their beds and add all sorts of compost, fertilizer, bone meal, or homemade mixes including banana peels and egg shells.

We dug a deep hole, loosened the soil as much as possible, poured some river water in the bottom and then put the tomatoes in.  We're hoping the compost manure from last fall will provide the necessary nutrients.

Planting Deep
Tomatoes need a strong root network that will support their weight and gather moisture and nutrients.  That's why tomatoes should be planted deep.  We took off the bottom layer of leaves off our tomato plants and covered the roots and the stems with soil.  We put at least half the plant into the soil.

Cutworm Protection
We added our cutworm collars a few days after planting the tomatoes (see our previous post).  We should have done it the same day to avoid any loss. Next year!

In order to avoid damaging the root system, staking or caging is best done soon after planting.  We'll be placing our tomato cages on our plants within the next week.

Even watering is important for strong, healthy tomatoes.  We don't do this very well, instead we rely on rain and deeply planted roots that can draw from moisture deep in the ground.

That's how we plant tomatoes.  We take some short cuts, but luckily for us, each year we get as many tomatoes as we can handle.  Fresh salsa, tomato sandwiches, tomatoes with pasta, tomato soup, bruschetta, tomato sauce are all the delicious creations we get to enjoy from our tomatoes.

Good luck with your tomatoes!


Anonymous said...

we have planted early girl tomatoes in a large planter. They are growing with many tomatoes on them, just one problem. The bottoms of them are all rotte . They are not touching the ground nor can we see any bugs. Why are they rotting?
Please help...

Getty Stewart said...

Sounds like a case of Blossom End Rot. It's not pretty, but your tomatoes are safe to eat, if you can cut around the blemished areas. Sadly, once the end rot has set in, there's not much you can do to stop it. It's not a fungus or parasite, it's a physical growth issue resulting from lack of calcium uptake by the plant. Your soil may have plenty of calcium in it, but the plant just isn't absorbing it due to uneven watering (too much or too little)or stress (talking meanly to your plant,moving it around or fluctuating weather conditions). I plan on writing a post soon, watch for it.