I like to tinker with tomatoes and putter with potatoes. This year, I have several what-if projects going with these two old standbys.
One tomato experiment is supposed to mimic drip irrigation while providing continuous nutrition. I took two 5-gallon buckets and put holes in the bottoms and sides by driving a nail through the plastic with a hammer. Then I filled them half-full with compost, buried them partway in the ground and planted tomatoes around them.
The idea is that you fill the buckets with water every few days, and it seeps through the compost and out the holes, enriching the soil and keeping it moist. But I made bigger holes than I planned, and probably made too many. The water is draining out of the buckets in hours, not days. Next year I’ll make the holes with a drill and make fewer of them.
Epsom salt is often used to bathe tired feet and relieve constipation. I want to see if it helps tomatoes. I put a tablespoon of it at the bottom of each hole before adding dirt and compost and then planting tomato seedlings. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, and I’ve read that tomatoes often don’t get enough magnesium. For a test, I have four Bobcat tomatoes, half of which got the magnesium boost and half of which didn’t. I may also mix a tablespoon in a gallon of water and spray the foliage.
This is my second summer using red plastic mulch. This technique is supposed to increase tomato yield; certain colors of plastic work best for certain crops, and tomatoes prefer red. I put the red plastic on two tomato beds and one of eggplants. One problem is that rain doesn’t easily reach the plant’s roots, so it’s important to keep the tomatoes wateredj. Another is that the plastic disintegrates after a few years and it may be a pain to pluck pieces of it out of the garden.
We grew more Honeydrop cherry tomato seedlings than we have room for, and even after giving many away, we still had some left. So I took a bucket with holes in the bottom, filled it up with dirt and compost, and planted a mobile tomato, as shown in photo. I’ve never done container tomatoes before; we’ll see how this works!
All of this experimentation will be for naught if the dreaded late blight hits as hard as in the past two years. I started spraying a copper solution on my tomatoes in early July last year, and still got the blight. Some farms got wiped out. My local garden store was selling some resistant varieties this year, but I’m betting that this year weather conditions won’t favor the blight.
We received over 100 seed potatoes this year as a gift and have had to get creative with them. In addition to our potato high-rises, we have taken four cardboard boxes and filled them partway up with dirt and compost, then planted two seed potatoes per box. We took a metal tub, drilled holes in the bottom, and planted potatoes there. We created a 5×2-foot potato crib beside our fenced garden and planted about 25 potatoes near the beans, a plant that likes to be near potatoes.
We are hoping to get deluged with potatoes this fall, but first we have to watch out for the nasty Colorado potato beetle. In a few weeks, we’ll start looking for its orange eggs on the underside of the leaves.
Gardening is an ongoing learning experience!