Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tomato Planting 2013

I've been putting off writing about planting the tomatoes until now because I wanted to be able to provide a complete picture of our process. We actually transplanted the tomatoes to the garden in mid-May. The plants were originally started from seed in mid-March.

The variety of tomato that we planted was Roma, which is determinate variety, commonly used to make sauces. We hope to be able to experiment with both pizza and spaghetti sauce, as well as hopefully can some tomato sauce or juice for use in chili-making.

While this isn't our first attempt at growing tomatoes, it is our first "real" attempt. We tried them in a container garden one year, with no success. We also tried growing inverted plants from hanging containers, which also did not work out very well. This year, though, I feel like we should see some positive results.

I've already described our method for seed starting, so will not repeat that here. In early-May we began the process of hardening off the plants in preparation for planting. We began by putting them on a shelf on the covered porch during the day. We gradually increased the time we left them outside, until eventually leaving them overnight and also moving them off of the porch where they could receive full sun.

We did very little soil preparation before transplanting the tomatoes. The section of the garden into which we planted them had been planted in cover crops. After the initial mowing of the cover crops, I mowed again, this time with the push mower, which cuts closer to the ground, prior to planting.

When it came time to transplant the tomatoes we simply dug a hole sufficient for the root system of the plant, dropped them in, and added soil. We chose not to apply any type of fertilizer at the time of planting.

We also went ahead and set up our watering system for the tomatoes on the day they were transplanted. We used a variation the buried clay pot irrigation system, which we first heard about in our Gardening 101 Class. In place of clay pots, we used one gallon plastic jugs, which were partially buried near each plant. Holes punched in the bottom of each jug, on the side closest to the plant, allow the water to slowly run saturate the soil. The idea is that this is somewhat slowed delivery of water is preferable to giving the plants the full amount all at once.

In addition to installing the watering system, we also installed posts for our trellis. We had originally planned to use cages to support the plants. Unfortunately, however, we  haven't collected enough pieces of PVC to build PVC cages for everything, so we decided to use a different approach this year. We decided to go with the Florida Weave method of trellising, which only required posts and some type of 'string'. We went with t-posts and baling twine, but there are several other options.

We have settled into a regular routine for caring for the tomatoes. We give each plant a gallon of water every other day, unless we received rain during that period. I have also began applying a weekly foliar fertilizer of diluted urine, which I will continue doing until fruit begins to develop.

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