Monday, May 4, 2009

The Tomato Traitor

Yeah, that would be Kim!

Leave him alone for a day with a bit of money and look what he does.

We have perfectly good tomato plants, started from seeds, with my own two precious hands.

They look alright, right?


OK, maybe they're a bit small. OK, maybe really small. Really, really small.
But I have faith in them. I believe with all my heart they will grow up to be big happy tomato plants. And that they will yield glorious tomatoes that will make us perfectly happy.

Here is what was waiting in the plant room when I got off work today.

That's right. Tomatoes from THE TOMATO TRAITOR as he shall now be named!

Here they are showing off to my little tomatoes.

I ask you, is that fair?

And I'll tell you, no it ISN'T!

But, I will prevail with my little tomatoes. I am determined to do so.

Some tomato growing info from About.Dom, Gardening:

1. Don’t Crowd Seedlings.
Don't Let Seedlings Grow Into Each Other. If you are starting tomatoes from seed, be sure to give the seedlings room to branch out. Close conditions inhibit their growth, so transplant them as soon as they get their first true leaves and move them into 4" pots about 2 weeks after that.

2. Provide lots of light.
Tomato seedlings will need either strong, direct sunlight or 14-18 hours under grow lights. Place the young plants only a couple of inches from florescent grow lights. Plant your tomatoes outside in the sunniest part of your vegetable plot.

3. Put a fan on your seedlings.
It seems tomato plants need to move and sway in the breeze, to develop strong stems. Provide a breeze by turning a fan on them for 5-10 minutes twice a day.

4. Preheat the soil in your garden.
Tomatoes love heat. Cover the planting area with black or red plastic a couple of weeks before you intend to plant. Those extra degrees of warmth will translate into earlier tomatoes.

5. Bury them.
Bury tomato plants deeper than they come in the pot, all the way up to a few top leaves. Tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems. You can either dig a deeper hole or simply dig a shallow tunnel and lay the plant sideways. It will straighten up and grow toward the sun. Be careful not to drive your pole or cage into the stem.

6. Mulch Later.
Straw Makes a Great Vegetable Garden Mulch. Mulch after the ground has had a chance to warm up. Mulching does conserve water and prevents the soil and soil born diseases from splashing up on the plants, but if you put it down too early it will also shade and therefore cool the soil. Try using plastic mulch for heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers.

7. Remove the Bottom Leaves.
Once the tomato plants are about 3' tall, remove the leaves from the bottom 1' of stem. These are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems. They get the least amount of sun and soil born pathogens can be unintentionally splashed up onto them. Spraying weekly with compost tea also seems to be effective at warding off fungus diseases.

8. Pinch & Prune for More Tomatoes
Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They won’t bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant. But go easy on pruning the rest of the plant. You can thin leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it’s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes.

9. Water the Tomato Plants Regularly.
Water deeply and regularly while the plants are developing. Irregular watering, (missing a week and trying to make up for it), leads to blossom end rot and cracking. Once the fruit begins to ripen, lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars. Don’t withhold water so much that the plants wilt and become stressed or they will drop their blossoms and possibly their fruit.

10. Getting Them to Set Tomatoes.
Determinate* type tomatoes tend to set and ripen their fruit all at one time, making a large quantity available when you’re ready to make sauce. You can get indeterminate* type tomatoes to set fruit earlier by pinching off the tips of the main stems in early summer.

From ivillage GardenWeb:

*Determinate varieties of tomatoes, also called "bush" tomatoes, are varieties that are bred to grow to a compact height (approx. 4 feet). They stop growing when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud, ripen all their crop at or near the same time (usually over a 2 week period), and then die.
They may require a limited amount of caging and/or staking for support, should NOT be pruned or "suckered" as it severely reduces the crop, and will perform relatively well in a container (minimum size of 5-6 gallon). Examples are: Rutgers, Roma, Celebrity (called a semi-determinate by some), and Marglobe.

*Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called "vining" tomatoes. They will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost and can reach heights of up to 10 feet although 6 feet is considered the norm. They will bloom, set new fruit and ripen fruit all at the same time throughout the growing season. They require substantial caging and/or staking for support and pruning and the removal of suckers is practiced by many but is not mandatory. The need for it and advisability of doing it varies from region to region. Experiment and see which works best for you. Because of the need for substantial support and the size of the plants, indeterminate varieties are not usually recommended as container plants. Examples are: Big Boy, Beef Master, most "cherry" types, Early Girl, most heirloom varieties, etc.

An explanation of catfacing and why it's important to keep your tomato plants warm:

Insect damage, poor pollination, and environmental factors all cause catfacing, a term that describes the puckering, scarring, and deformation of strawberries, stone fruits, and tomatoes. You can recognize catfacing in tomatoes by the scarred indentations found on the blossom end of the fruit. Sometimes this scarring extends deep into the fruit cavity, making much of the fruit inedible.

The most common cause of catfacing in tomatoes is exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees F during flowering and fruit set. Low temperatures inhibit pollination and cause the blossom to stick to the developing fruit. Both of these factors prevent certain parts of the fruit from developing. The undesirable scarring and indentation occurs when unaffected parts of the fruit continue to expand.

Tomatoes that develop during warm weather do not usually experience catfacing problems. However, evidence suggests that even when temperatures are warm, excessive soil nitrogen, exposure to the pesticide 2,4-D, and erratic soil moisture can cause catfacing.

Some cultivars and varieties, including many heirlooms, are more susceptible to catfacing. You can avoid the problem by choosing resistant varieties, such as 'Homestead' and 'Monte Carlo'. If your favorite varieties are susceptible but you'd still like to grow them, either protect your transplants with cloches in cold weather or wait until day and evening temperatures are consistently warm to plant them.

Catfaced tomatoes are safe to eat; simply cut away the scarred areas.

I shall follow this advice and raise magnificent tomatoes!!!

I hope.


Dirt Princess said...

I wouldn't share with him!! Traitor!

Prairie Chicken... said...

damn you tomato traitor!

thanks for the growing tips!

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

How could he?! But ... he bought TOMATOES, not beer or a new gadget for himself, so, I'd forgive him. It'll be interesting to see which plants will give fruits first. I remember one year, a planted several big tomatoes in April, then bought more in May and even June. At the end, all of them grew the same and there was no big difference in fruiting. It'll be interesting to compare yours and his. Tell us later, will you?

Unknown said...

I wish you the best of luck! I bet that your seedlings will turn out great and be fabulous producers! This will be the first year that I have grown tomatoes, so I'm a little scared, I didn't grow mine from seed, though.

Rosemary said...

Great blog post.. lots of info on tomatoes and a smile too.

Kathleen said...

That is SO not fair!! I believe in your little tomatoes too!!! Bring it on. See which ones produce the best. It will be a fun little summer competition. :-)

Jennifer AKA keewee said...

A traitor indeed. You keep on with your tomatoes and just show him a thing or two.

Katie said...

Even though your seedlings are small, they will catch up in no time. Mine were the same way and I was getting sad, but then after some kelp and fish meal help, they exploded! Good luck with them this year.

Bangchik and Kakdah said...

Look after them, and they will grow and grow...... I am sure, it will bear nice juicy tomatoes... Ours here in Malaysia, is going for the last harvest of tamotoes..... Still thinking what to plant next on the same plot... Happy Gardening... ~ bangchik

Ginger said...

the tomato traitor - LOL

thanks for the tips! I just pruned tomatoes for the first time last year. It's a good thing for small-scale gardening. I just don't have room for gigantic cages and plants in my yard. It's tempting to think the plants will be injured by severe pruning, but I didn't find that to be the case at all. Just think of it like deadheading perennials or something!

Heather said...

You just put in a nutshell all I needed to know to sound like I know. Good info. The fan trick will be tried next year when I start all my tomatoes from seed. I bet yours and his end up the same size when it is all said and done. your tomatoes look great!

Connie said...

This post made me smile. If you aren't setting your tomato plants out for awhile, I think they would benefit from potting up to a 4 inch pot, and giving them a shot of fish fertilizer. (stinky stuff!) I plant mine out after Mother's Day, but you may a littler earlier there?
Instead of a fan, you can also simply brush your hand lightly across the tops of the plants, and it accomplishes the same thing.
Here's hoping you get lots of tasty tomatoes!

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Would it be true to say that ALL of us have succomed to the temptation of a plant, beckoning to us, buy me, buy me.... I say reap the benefits of more tomatoes.
Great info too!

Jane Ellis said...

The best way to support your tomato plants is with The Tomato Stake.

Easier to use than metal cages or upside down planters, stronger than bamboo and won't rot like wood stakes. The built-in twist-tie supports make tying your tomato plants easy!

Megan said...

I have faith your tomatoes are going to win the race. Smaller plants transplant better, right? You should start taking bets. Go little tomatoes, go!

Unknown said...

Too funny! Keep us posted - I can't wait to see your little guys out produce his big bullies! LOL

vuejardin said...

My tomato plant is about the same size

Jeffrey said...

I'm with Kim on this one... only because no one else appears to be...