Getting the Most Out of Your Tomatoes

June 1, 2008

A cold May wind and cooler than normal temps delayed the planting of the Ciao garden this year but I am happy to say that all the lettuces are in, along with the shallots, onions, and leeks.

We started just about everything from seed this year and the seedlings did well until we put them outside in a cold frame, and an unexpected frost killed them. So we started over!

Round two. This year’s variety of tomatoes include: Montecarlo, a salad tomato, San Marzano plum tomatoes including Redorta, Costuluto Fiorentina, Genovese, Heirloom Brandywine, and my favorite Sweet One Hundreds.

When tomatoes are ready to go in the ground, we plant them through 1.2 mil biodegradable black plastic. We space the plants two to two and a half feet apart; or three feet if they are not to be staked.

When we’re ready to plant them we strip all the leaves from the stem except the top four leaves. We bury the root ball and stem until 1 inch of stem and leaves is left above the soil line. You can place a tablespoon of slow release fertilizer in each hole, or apply around the stem of the plant. If cutworms are a problem in your area, bury styrofoam cups or cardboard rings 1 inch into the soil around each stem, leaving about 1 inch above the soil. Water heavily the first week. Soaker hoses are helpful. When the plants are 12 to 18 inches tall, place them in 4 foot high tomato cages or stake them for disease control and ease of harvesting.

I recommend planting other warm weather vegetables like eggplant and peppers 18 inches apart in staggered rows only after nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees. This means the second week in June in the northeast where I live.

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