You say tomato, I say tomato

July 13, 2010 | 7:07 am

I think sweet juicy tomatoes have to be the most talked about garden vegetable. Tomato popularity can be seen as you drive through neighborhoods. Many don’t have a home garden but have at least one potted tomato plant on their deck. Have you seen those topsy turvy tomato planters? My goodness they are everywhere! One gentleman has four hanging from his front porch on Main Street in town.

Recently, with my Bunco group we were discussing (bragging) about our latest tomato harvest.  As a gardener, I want to be able to say that I have been eating fresh tomatoes for weeks, but reality is we have only harvested two tomatoes thus far. Yes, I am so disappointed! I’m a Master Gardener! I should have this tomato thing mastered by now! I have watered and fertilized regularly .The fruit is on the plant I just need to wait patiently, I guess. Hard to wait when I am dreaming of a fresh BLT sandwich and bragging rights with the Bunco gals!

One Google search and you will realize there is a plethora of information on growing tomatoes! There are blogs dedicated to one topic, tomatoes. Today I add my two cents.

Random tomato tips I have gathered:

1.  Rotate.  Our beloved tomatoes are temperamental and are laden with insect and disease problems. If possible never plant your tomatoes in the same spot as last year. Crop rotation is a common garden practice.  If you have potted tomatoes, use fresh potting soil year after year and be sure to sterilize your pots before planting.

2. Mulch.  This will help maintain even moisture and help prevent water from splashing on the plants leaves which causes plant disease.

3. Water.  It is suggested to water regularly and deeply in the morning hours. I have found that watering with a drip line is a very effective method. Just be sure not to get water on the leaves.  Lack of regular water causes blossom end rot. Soaking and drought cause cracking.

4. Stake or Cage. Tomatoes grow tall and are heavy, especially when they are full of fruit. They cannot support themselves. The trick is to cage them early before they get too big to put the cage around the plant.

5. Feed.  I have ranted before about healthy soil. Here I go again – Starting with good soil is the key to successful gardening.  You still have to fertilize but without good soil you will be fighting an uphill battle.   When planting add compost or a slow release fertilizer to the hole. Side dressing during the growing season will also help with fruit production. There are fertilizers labeled for tomatoes, those are good but you can also use a general vegetable fertilizer. Be careful not to get too much nitrogen as you will have a tall green plant versus a healthy plant with lots of tomatoes.

6. Watch. Examine your plants for disease and insects. I have been out to the garden and been briefly devastated by blossom end rot. So frustrating to think that I finally have a red tomato and then see that it is rotten! Tomato hornworms are amazing…ly gross!! They can quickly strip a plant! Other common problems with tomatoes include: anthracnose, blossom end rot, leaf curl, cracks, hornworm and aphids.

Now I have added my two cents to growing tomatoes. I’m headed to the kitchen to fry up some bacon and make that BLT that I have been dreaming of.  Happy Eating!

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