It is time to get supports around the tomatoes. The growth of a garden at this time of the year is very fast. Those small tomato plants are going to be big tomato plants in a short time.
The first part of installing a cage in is light tillage around the tomato plants. The roots of the tomato plants are near the surface. Just move the soil about an half and inch deep. Tillage around all of the plants in the garden at this time is important. The weed seeds have germinated. When the soil is disturbed the weed roots lose contact with the soil and die. This means you do not have to pull many weeds.
After tillage add the cage. With the EZ Tomato Cage just let the legs slide around on the rings and then set the bottom of the cage around the plant. EZ Tomato Cage have an option to add extensions, so it is important to protect the top of the legs. I use a hammer and a board to drive in the legs of the cage in to the ground. Hold the board on top of the cage and then hit it with the hammer. A rubber mallet would also work.
The tomatoes have been planted again. I found out that there are times when those old wise guys get it wrong. The swallows were back but it still froze here. It was a learning experience for at least one EZ Tomato Cage customer. When he removed the plants that been frozen he found that the roots of his plants had not grown much. The tomato plants had been root bound in the pot. I was told to let everyone know that if a tomato plant looks to big for its pot it most likely is root bound. If the tomato plant is root bound just ruffle the outside of the root ball, don’t pull it apart, this will cause too much damage.
As your tomatoes grow so will the weeds. Tomato, pepper and eggplant root systems are very close to the surface. Do not to till very deep around the tomato plants. When weeding try to cut the weeds off just below the surface of the soil.
The next step in weed control is mulching. This is a huge topic. Mulch isn’t just about weed control it is also about moisture and temperature of the soil. In the northern growing areas let the ground warm up before mulching. There are many types of mulch. There is black and colored plastics, newspapers, wood chips, leaves, and lawn clippings and many I have not listed.
Black plastic is easy to get and will hold down weeds and hold in moisture. Be sure to add small holes to let water get thru. It may add temperature to the soil, which may be good or bad, depending on your climate.
I like lawn clippings mixed with leaves because I have easy access to them. The grass clippings will add a little nitrogen to the soil. Grass and leaves will add organic matter and many microorganisms that aid in nutrient exchange to the soil. They can be tilled into the garden at the end of the growing season.
I have not tried newspaper. It seems that it would be hard to get enough of and hard to control in windy areas. It would need to be covered with something for it to work in this part of the country.
The bottom line is that mulch is one of the most important parts of a successful garden. The mulch you use will depend on how available it is to you. It keeps weeds down and plants up.
A wise man once told me that when the swallows are back the chance of a hard frost is over. The Swallows have returned to our area. This must mean that it is time to plant tomatoes.
When planting a garden it is a good idea to rotate the area that is planted with tomatoes. This may reduce tomato blight, will help with insect/pest control and soil management. A garden map of what and where you will plant things is a big help. Remember to write a date on your map and keep it from year to year to help you remember where you planted in the past. There are websites that can help you with this. One that I have found to be useful is http://www.motherearthnews.com/garden-planner/vegetable-garden-planner
Your tomatoes will grow best in full sun and soil that is fertile and is not compacted such as clay. if your soil is heavy and clay like you can add organic matter such as peat or compost into the soil. You can purchase this at your local hardware store, Lowes, Home Depot or Target.
If your tomatoes are in peat pots either tear off the pot or make sure to bury the pot completely. Leaving the peat pot exposed above ground will act as a wick and dry out the soil around the roots. If your plant is in a plastic pot or cell pack you can carefully tap the plant out. If they have been grown in small flats you can use a knife to cut around them.
I plant determinate tomatoes(paste type) 24 inches apart and indeterminate tomatoes 30 inches apart in rows that are 36 to 40 inches apart. My garden rake is my measuring tool. It is 15 inches long with tines that are 1 inch apart.
Dig a hole and place the plant in the hole up to the first true leaves. (see photo).If your plant is tall and spindly pinch off the bottom leaves and lay them sideways in a trench. Carefully bend the stems up leaving a few inches of the plant above the soil. Roots will develop all along the buried stem. Before long you will want to install your tomato cages. Go to http://eztomatocage.com to see these remarkable collapsible tomato cages that will last for years to come.
Many Farmer Markets typically start the 1st weekend in May. Depending on the Farmer’s Market you visit you could find a great variety tomato and garden plants. Some plants have been started from seed in window sills, others in green houses. Whatever the case is you need to pick a healthy tomato plant.
You may need to do a little research on which plant varieties will grow best in your area and know what you will be using the fruit for; juicing, canning, making pasta sauces, salsa or just eating fresh?
When purchasing tomato plants look for plants that are stocky, dark green and approximately 6 to 10 inches tall they should have stems that are about pencil size in diameter. Do not buy plants that are large and have flowers or have fruit on them. They will stunt plant growth and reduce the fruit yield.
Now that you have purchased a healthy tomato plant it is time to plant it. You will want soil that is well-drained and fertile. If your soil is heavy and lacks drainage it can be improved by adding organic matter. Our soil is heavy and has a lot of clay in it so we add grass clippings and some leaves as mulch around the plants. This will be tilled into soil after the harvest. You can also add other compost or peat. Every year our the soil seems to get better
The plants will do best in an area that receives 6-8 hours of direct sunlight and put in a strong tall cage at least 4 feet tall for determinate tomatoes and even taller for the indeterminate tomatoes. Whether you make your cages or decide to purchase them make sure they are strong and tall as plants get very heavy and will topple over if not supported correctly. EZ Tomato Cages will provide the support you require for any size tomato plant with the added advantage of being collapsible and easy to store. Check out the website and YouTube video at http://eztomatocage.com.
Tomato cages and why all tomato plants need them?
There are two basic types of tomato plants. Determinate and Indeterminate. Most gardeners grow both types and both types need tomato cages.
Determinate tomato plants will grow as tall as four feet. These plants will produce fruit at approximately the same time period. Usually over two to three weeks. Once they produce their main crop production can fall off. These plants are not as tall as the Indeterminate tomatoes, but you will still need tomato cages to support them and keep the fruit off the ground. This will avoid spoilage and will make it much easier to pick the fruit. A lot of paste type tomatoes are Determinate. Examples of these are Roma, Amish Paste, Big Mamma and Super Italian Paste. There are many more. These tomatoes are great for spaghetti sauce, salsa, ketchup, tomato sauce etc.
Indeterminate tomato plants will continue growing all season and can reach a height of twelve feet. These plants will continue to blossom and produce fruit until frost. They will need a strong, sturdy and tall tomato cage to support their weight and height. Examples of Indeterminate tomato plants are, Big Boy, Brandywine, Beefmaster, Beefsteak,Super Sweet 100 and Early Girl. We use these tomatoes for juice, basil tomatoes, stewed tomatoes and chili.
The EZ Tomato Cage is a good option when it comes to tall, sturdy support for large plants. The garden cages are 59 inches tall and 15 inches wide. The patio cage is 59 inches tall and 13 inches in diameter. The EZ tomato cage works well with both determinate and indeterminate tomato plants. With the 24 inch extensions you can make your 15 inch diameter cage as tall as you want. The Cages can also be used for other plants. Check out the EZ Tomato Cage YouTube video at http://eztomatocage.com/
We are excited about our new 2016 tomato crop (which is just starting) . We hope you will follow our blog as we continue to make posts and keep in touch as to how our garden grows.
We are getting ready to till the garden. When the ground is ready we will be adding six tomato cages for our crop this year.