Saturday, May 12, 2012

Planting Tomatoes


My family loves tomatoes and we eat a lot of them. Therefore I grow a lot of them to can. My tomato plants were started months ago and were moved to the cold frame several weeks ago to harden off and prepare for their planting out in the big garden. This year I will grow the two varieties you see in the picture above. Brandywine and Big Rainbow. Both large open pollinated heirloom varieties. Also this year we are planting Moneymaker which is a large main crop tomato and a Reisentraube which is a small plum tomato for oven roasting. I always plant a yellow pear tomato or two for the kids too. It's one of their favorite snacks. All heirloom and all from saved seeds. 


While my tomato plants are in the cold frame, about a week before they are going to be planted outside I lay the plants on their sides in the cold frame because I want them to do this. See above how although the stem is straight the top of the plant has started to grow up towards the sunlight.  


See the roots starting to form along the stem of the tomato. I plant large indeterminate heirloom tomato varieties. I have seen these tomato plants hit 10 to 12 feet sometimes if I don't cut the tops out. That takes a good root system to support that large of a bush. And a sturdy tomato frame. It also takes a lot of roots to supply food and moisture to that large of a tomato plant. 
So this is what works for me here in the Midwest in zone 5A. I'm in rolling hills of the glaciated plains. It's the harsh prairie in all it's glory. 



First we stretch a string and space holes about every 4 to 5 feet apart along the row.  



Then I break out the two additives that I always put in the bottom of my tomato planting holes. Powdered milk and epsom salt. These are for calcium and magnesium to help deter blossom end rot. In the years that I have been doing this I very seldom get fungal diseases and I also mulch my plants well which I also think makes a big difference.     



In the bottom of each hole we put about a half cup powdered milk and a tablespoon epsom salt and mix it into the soil at the bottom of the hole. 


As you can see the tomatoes have filled their cups but are not root bound which is exactly how we want them.  Look at all those nice strong healthy white roots. 



Now you see the reason to lay them on their side. The tomato plant is planted on it's side in a horizontal hole about 6 to 8 inches deep. The top of the plant that is turning up towards the sun will be the only thing showing above ground. Basically you are burying 2/3s of the stalk underground with roots forming all along it. 


Now pinch off  all the leaves that will be below ground and cover with dirt. Water well for several days and then apply a good heavy mulch and a sturdy tomato cage.  


And if the good lord is willing and the creek don't rise about mid to late July they'll be looking like this. 



Anyone else out there have any secrets they want to share on planting tomatoes? What works for you? What varieties do you like ? 

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter

17 comments:

  1. Those are beautiful tomatoes,I have never heard of using the powdered milk. Now that mine are up do you think I could side dress them with it?

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  2. Sure you can just sprinkle around the plant and water in!

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  3. You are the BEST teacher. We had pretty much given up on tomatoes, but your method may have us rethinking that position for next season. Thank you, thank you.

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  4. I'm going to try the milk and Epsom salt this year because of you.

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  5. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing the great information! I love to hear and see how other people have success with their gardens! Best of luck! Happy Gardening! Mindy

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  6. I am curious as to how many tomatoes you plant in order to can plenty for the year. I am a first time gardener and would love to can for our family of 6. Thanks for the great advice. It is so nice to read your blog and learn from someone that has been gardening for awhile.

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    1. I planted 35 tomato plants to provide tomatoes for my family of 3 and my daughter's family of 4. I average canning atleast 100 jars of tomato products through the season. These include stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, tomatoes and okra, and ketchup. With the green tomatoes left at the end of the year I can green tomato pie filling, relish and have even pickled green tomatoes. My daughter loves tomatoes roasted in the oven in olive oil and then jarred in olive oil or frozen.

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  7. Your tomatoes look wonderful! I will definitely have to try this next year (if I can get my little dream greenhouse built to start my seeds early) ;) I read above all the wonderful tomato items you can. Have you ever done squash/zucchini w/tomatoes?? It is very good especially in the winter baked with cheese on top.

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    1. I cook tomatoes and zucchini together in a dish that I serve. I have never tried canning it together just tomatoes and okra. I usually always have tomatoes canned and zucchini in the freezer : ) Great combo in soups though !

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  8. What exactly do you use as your mulch?? Thanks Ang

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    1. wheat straw ( preferably organic,grass clippings, or a combination of the two.

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    2. Grass clipping? Is law OK? Where to you store it? I put my lawn clipping into my compost? I am afraid anything GRASS will start growing in my veggie beds. Thanks for the poweder milk and epson salt I will try this year. Do you still add other "commercially available" fertilizers "special for tomatoes" I genereally use liquid organic fish based fertilizer or ALFALFA or the organgic powder from Miracle grow (although I am not keen on that really but its' certified ORGANIC"
      Also one wonders what starter plants are NOT GM in the stores now . How to know the truth? You have my admiration for your blog! BRAVO happy to have discovered it via this arab FB page https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=328311277273058&set=a.144894538948067.24575.137972796306908&type=1&theater all about aquaponics and this one https://www.facebook.com/AquaponicsSurvivalCommunities loads of fun little information ESPECIALLY the way they grow tomatoes HORIZONTALLY I want to try that

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  9. Thank you for the great advice. I am new to gardening and we don't have a lot of space but it's a good place for me to start.

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  10. Hi. What is your best known type for SMALL TOMATOES? I grow intown 3feet by 8 feet and am always having trouble..too much rain
    http://visualsenses.smugmug.com/Nature-in-its-many-splendors/My-KALE-forest-and-organic/13595110_78GD5j#!i=1220184262&k=ZK9JfT6

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  11. Do you take your tomato plants inside at night during the cold frame?

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