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Friday, April 30, 2010

Tomato Day

Hurray!  I planted my tomatoes today.  I have been expecting to do it for 2 weeks, but the 5-day forecasts kept throwing nightly temps in the 40's.  And it did, indeed, get down to about 45 here just 3 nights ago.  But with the extended forecast staying above 55 for the next ten days, I decided to go for it today.

First, I put down reflective red plastic.  It maximizes the light frequency tomatoes use best.  Plus it makes a good weed suppression cover.  Notice there are 2 tomato beds.  The bed between them his half monarda (the bees love it, which provides great pollination) and half cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, and radicchio).  Then I selected my best seedlings.

I have 3 Cherokee Purple, 2 Brandywine, and 1 each of Aunt Gerty's Gold, Prudens Purple, and Tennessee Britches.  I have a cherry tomato for a hanging pot, but that goes elsewhere.  You can guess from that that I prefer Cherokee Purple.  It is very productive and hardy for an heirloom and the taste is subtle and complex.  I like the Brandywine a lot too (who doesn't), but it is a meager producer and it tends to die early.  I will actually be planting  some new ones this week for replacement for the late season.  I may just root a few suckers and see how that works. 

Second, I dug 10" deep holes to set the seedlings down as far as I could.  For those of you not so familiar with tomatoes, they develop roots from all buried stem.  That helps a lot.  It also keeps the early rootball well insulated from temperature and moisture fluctuations.  I mixed the dug out soil with good slow-release organic fertilizer.  I mix my own from 2 types and the final ratio is about 9-6-6.  Too much nitrogen means lots of foliage and not many fruits!
Then I back-filled the holes, making a saucer around them do hold water.

Third, I staked the seedlings in the center, put on the cages (22" diameter by 5' high remesh), and separately staked the cages.  I love the remesh cages.  They have 6" openings so it is easy to harvest the tomatoes, they are very sturdy, and they seem to last forever.  Mine are about 15 years old and going strong.  I gave them 2 good deep waterings (the soil was dry).
I also attached the seedling to the center stakes and the cages to the outside stakes.  I found these need plastic spring clips that make that so easy.  I used to use plastic trash-bag ties but the clips are much better.

Here is a closeup of one of the seedlings.  Even buried 10" deep, they are 8" above the surface. I usually plant about Tax Day, but like I said, the weather was fluctuating a lot this month.  I usually use Wall O' Waters to protect them, but they really are a pain to set up and fill and I decided not to do that this year.  But the stems are solid, the weather looks good, and they should be off and growing quickly.
I wanted to show the remesh cages a bit better, too.  At least you can see it in the above picture.

I plan to foliar feed the plants more often this year.  That means spraying a liquid fertilizer directly on the leaves.  They can absorb it through the leaves and what runs down the stem gets into the soil around the roots.

I think I will celebrate tonight with a steak, some home-grown asparagus, and a home-grown salad.  And some wine.  And "snacks" for dessert...
My desserts are not like most peoples' desserts.  LOL!  Those bready-looking strips are banana cake.  Think "spice cake" without the spices but with a cup of ripe banana mashed into the batter...  Yum!

Do you like my placemat?  I eat dinner on a TV tray while watching my favorite shows...  Science, Nature, and Cooking. 
My favorite cooking show is 'Good Eats' by Alton Brown...  He doesn't just cook, he explains the "why" of cooking.


Alasandra said...

Love the placemat. Artemisia sits in the chair with me when I eat while watching TV. I know she keeps hoping I'll foolishly put my plate within her reach so she can devour my lunch.

Jacqueline said...

You deserve the celebration!...Banana cake sounds wonderful; I love banana nut bread=great childhood memories!