Tomato Growing Part 2

As your tomatoes grow, you may notice that there are some insects that have taken a liking to your plants.

Some common insects are:

Horn Worms – large green caterpillars with a horn on one end.  They eat holes in the leaves of your plants. Snip them off at first sight and dispose of them!

Cabbage Loopers – smaller green caterpillars that eat all of the tomato leaf but leave the veins, skeletonizing them. Again, remove them at first sight and dispose of them!  They can do damage very quickly.

Flea Beetles  – tiny dark beetles that hop quickly when disturbed.  They will create pits in the leaves and eventually the tomatoes as well.  Must be treated quickly!

Potato Beetles – larger striped insects that also love to munch on the leaves.  Must be treated quickly!

Aphids – tiny green or dark insects that eat in colonies, sucking the sap right out of the plant and exuding a sugary substance that can lead to a black sooty mold that will grow on the stems.  Aphids left to multiply are very damaging to the plant, especially new growth.

When I have these pests, I use an organic product which is Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap.  Saturate the leaves and stems, (but not during the height of a sunny day for risk of sun scald), and repeat every 7 to 10 days as needed.  This soap is very safe and can be used even up to the day of harvest.

Another common problem with tomatoes is yellowing leaves.

This can be caused by under-watering to the point of wilt.  If this happens too often, it will lead to blossom-end-rot which is a dark blemish on the bottom of forming tomatoes.  Over-watering can also lead to yellowing leaves.  Too much water can actually begin rotting the tomato’s roots.  Soak the plants thoroughly and then keep check on them frequently to soak again when the soil begins to become dry.  Sometimes a larger plant will shade the leaves at the bottom, causing them to become yellow due to sun blockage. Nothing to worry about there.

If you suspect a lack of nitrogen, (which I am seeing in my hanging basket tomatoes), give them a dose of vegetable fertilizer.  Be sure to follow the directions on the package.  Over fertilizing will burn the plant and lead to decline.  In reality, vegetables really don’t need to be fertilized unless there are definite signs of deficiency.

Alright, so now you have it.  I have discussed terminology, soil preparation, and planting in Part 1 and now we have discussed possible problems and care.  I hope you are well on your way to healthy plants and an abundance of tomatoes to harvest.  If you have questions or comments about your tomatoes, be sure to share.

We will delve into other great additions to the vegetable garden soon.  One cannot live on tomatoes alone.

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Tomato Growing Part 1

Well, we have reached May, with May temperatures – high 60’s to mid 70’s during the day and mostly 50’s at night. 

There are now soooo many things to write about with regard to spring gardening.  Where to start…where to start?  I am going to start with tomatoes.  So many people have been picking up their plants and this may help answer some questions and get things off to a good start.

There are a couple of terms floating around out there: indeterminate, determinate, and heirloom.

Indeterminate varieties set tomatoes over several months, while determinate varieties product their fruits heavily over a very short period of time.  Heirloom varieties are tomatoes that have not been hybridized and have been cultivated for at least 50 years or more.  A good example of an heirloom variety is the Brandywine tomato, an Amish tomato that dates back to 1885.

Generally there are different types of tomatoes: bush tomatoes, cherry & grape tomatoes, plum tomatoes, vining tomatoes, and even intermediate bush/vining.

Where to plant:  In a full sun area, and in a spot where you haven’t grown tomatoes in the previous two years.  This type of crop rotation prevents plants from falling prey to any build up of tomato diseases in the soil.  Be sure to give your plants plenty of space to grow.  They may be small when you bring them home but boy do they get big pretty quickly.  It is best to follow the spacing instructions listed on the plant tag.

Plant your tomatoes by digging a hole about two times bigger than the root ball and about 12″ deep.This loosens the soil and allows for quicker root development.  With the soil, mix in well-rotted compost, manure, or some type of higher phosphorous fertilizer, (Espoma’s Triple Phosphate is a great choice).  Water your plants thoroughly but from that point further, it is best to water little and often, ensuring that the soil and roots never dry out.  ****Be careful to not get into the habit of flooding them when you water.  Do not begin to fertilize the tomatoes until flowers begin to form on the plants.  Use a tomato/vegetable fertilizer to be sure that they are getting the right formulation, (again, Espoma Tomato-Tone or Garden-Tone are two reliable choices).

If you are planting your tomatoes in containers, choose a pot that has drainage and is at least 14″ in diameter – larger is even better.  Follow the care instructions previously discussed but as for a potting mix, use soil that states that it is suitable for vegetable potting.

Tomato Growing Part 2 will be following, as I add my own garden additions.