Tomato planting time!

IMG_20140530_075624781_HDRIt’s cloudy, rain is expected today, followed by warm, sunny weather — it’s time to plant tomatoes.

I started this morning by planting three Honeydew cherry tomatoes (I have extras if anybody wants one). I gave each seedling some water and dug a hole about five inches deep and four across, scratching the bottom to loosen some dirt. I filled the hole half up with sifted compost and mixed it with the dirt. I pinched off three or four of the lower leaves of the seedlings, because tomatoes are one of the few plants that can grow new roots from their stems. I placed each seedling in the hole on its side, and curved the top to face up before filling in the hole with dirt, leaving the top of the plant just peeking up from the ground.

IMG_20140530_075714522I then surrounded the plant with sifted compost and watered, then put cut-in-half plastic milk jugs over them to heat them up in the daytime and protect them from cold nights. In a few days, I’ll surround each one with a cylindrical cage I made out of concrete reinforcing wire (I’ll wipe the the bottoms of the cages with bleach mixed with water to remove any disease left over from last year).  This will provide support as the tomatoes grow; it’s much easier than tying them to stakes. I have to remember where I put the root balls so I don’t pierce them with the prongs of the cages when I put them in!

This afternoon I’ll do the same thing with 10 seedlings at my community garden two miles from our house, and may plant some more in the back yard if it’s not raining by then. I’ll be spacing the plants a little farther apart this year (30 to 36 inches) to try to give them more air and see if we can ward off the dreaded late blight. I’ll also spray them with liquid copper before any prolonged period of wetness to beat the blight. I love that tomatoes have few insect pests, though I may have to protect the ones I planted this morning from critters because they are outside our fence.

I’ll be interested to see if the red plastic mulch I’ve put on two of the nine tomato beds improves their productivity. In all, I expect to plant around 30 tomato seedlings. And in September, we will devote a lot of time to canning tomatoes and making green tomato chutney and relish. It’s great to enjoy your own tomatoes in January!

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