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When the weather has settled, it’s time to get the tomatoes in the ground before they get root bound. Tomatoes produce earlier if you keep establishing plants in one-gallon pots until the first flowers open. Otherwise, when you plant them out, they put all their energy into growing new roots, delaying the formation of the first flower truss.
When planting out, remove the root ball carefully from the pot, and courageously strip all the leaves off the stem except for the very top truss. Bury the entire plant into a deep hole, where roots will form on all parts of the buried stem to feed the plant for fruit production.
You can also lay the stem on its side to bury it by gently flexing it into an L-shape. If you intend to save seeds space potato leaf varieties 30 feet apart to insure cross pollination does not occur. Otherwise six feet of separation between different varieties will do the job.
Tomato cages suffice for bushy determinate varieties but vining tomatoes need staking. Keep vining tomatoes to one or two main stems by pinching out the suckers, which grow between the main stem and the leaf axils, as the plant grows. Use a five-foot tall, two-inch wide cedar stake for semi-determinate and vining tomatoes because there’s nothing worse than finding your loaded tomato plants flopped over!
TIP: Pantyhose makes the best ties for tomato plants, as it does not cut into the soft stems. Cut pantyhose into stretchy strips, and use these for tying plants to stakes in the garden.
Above: The magic brew
Last November I decided to make a batch of compost tea in a 45-gallon, plastic food grade barrel. Compost tea produces a biologically active concentrate, which adds soluble nutrients to the soil that can be easily absorbed by plants. We put 4 buckets of chicken manure and screened compost into the barrel to start the process. We filled up the barrel and gave it a good stirring to mix the ingredients. In winter I also stirred in some seaweed from the beach.
In early spring I gingerly removed the lid on the barrel, amazed that there was no odour. I then reactivated the brew by adding more screened compost, and later nettles too. Nettles were followed by juicy stems of horsetail (which I removed to the compost heap after 2 weeks of steeping.). Stirring vigorously every week adds oxygen for aerobic breakdown, which prevents a smelly liquid.
Having planted on all the tomatoes I decided to put the ‘magic brew’ to work using a 20:1 dilution in a 2-gallon watering can. I first tested this on some container tomatoes and after a week, when the signs were positive, all the tomatoes in the garden and in containers received a soil drench around their roots. A single soil drench of quality compost tea can be effective for up to 6 months.
Back to Carolyn’s Victory Garden Program.