Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Growing Tomatoes You Can be Proud of

Preparation Tomatoes should be planted in full sun when all danger of frost is passed. You can start the plants from seed indoors approximately 5 to 7 weeks prior to planting or you can purchase established plants from the garden center. Starting with established plants will allow you to pick fruit earlier and longer. If starting from seed, use a lite soil or specific seed starting mix. In either case look for disease-resistant varieties. Prior to planting, turn the soil over and add organic materials such as compost or peat moss. This is also a good time to add Tomato-tone; incorporate the Tomato-tone into the top 4 inches of the soil bed. It is common for started plants to become leggy or stretched prior to transplanting. For best results, plant these leggy plants deep so that only one third of the plant and all foliage is above the soil.

Staking Most gardeners prefer to stake their tomatoes in order to conserve space and to avoid fruit rotting on the ground. Choose sturdy 7 to 8 foot stakes at least 2 inches square. Tie the plants to the stake with a soft twine or strips of cloth to avoid damaging the stems. You can also purchase wire tomato cages that allow plants to grow inside from your local garden center.

Feeding Tomato-tone by Espoma is a complex blend of natural ingredients that provides all major, minor, and trace nutrients your tomatoes require. Because the nutrients in Tomato-tone release slowly, it is very safe to use. Mix two tablespoons in the soil prior to planting. Feed your tomatoes twice each month with two tablespoons of Tomato-tone. There is no need to supplement with water soluble plant foods, because an over abundance of Nitrogen will encourage the plant to overproduce foliage at the expense of the fruit you want.

Watering Tomatoes cannot produce good, abundant fruit in dry conditions. Water 2 to 3 times each week to ensure that your plants are not forced to endure drought conditions.

Common Problems Blossom End Rot is sometimes seen in plants that have been grown in dry conditions. This disease can also be caused by a minor nutrient deficiency. Water your plants regularly and feed with Tomato-tone by Espoma to insure all nutrient requirements are met. Cracking occurs when the plant is watered after a prolonged dry spell. To avoid cracking, keep plants well-watered. Pests can sometimes be a problem. If you notice pests, there are many, varying of safe solutions, to your problem.

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