I had the privilege of hearing Point Loma Garden Club’s Tomato Lady, Karen Greenwald, speak a few weeks back and I’ve been meaning to post the great information she shared with the Bridge & Bay garden club. Karen is also a fellow San Diego Master Gardener. Tons of great info. So here goes:
Seeds need to be started 8-9 weeks before you plant outside. Wait until April to plant at earliest to plant your seedlings, acclimating for a week before you plant. Dig the hole, drop in some fertilizer water the hole, then let it drain. To plant your seedlings, remove the branches except the last three at the top. Also, pinch off any flowers to direct the plant’s energy to grow. Scrinch (Karen’s word!) the roots. Bury your plant to 1/2 inch under the bottom set of leaves, meaning you will be burying most of the stem. This will encourage more roots to form and your plant won’t be spindly. Stake your plant right away. If you wait to stake later, you’ll cause damage to the roots.
Plant 3′ apart in ground. If you are container-gardening tomatoes, use a minimum 15 gallon pot. Any smaller than that is too small. Use putting soil, not dirt from your yard, filling your container 3 inches from top of container. Mulch only with healthy mulch.
Tomatoes require a minimum of 6 hours of sun. The more sun, the better, but they prefer morning sun to afternoon.
Karen likes to use Tomatoes Alive fertilizer. follow directions, don’t overdo it! First feeding is when you plant, then you’ll feed two more times – when it flowers and it fruits. Don’t over feed!
Don’t over water. Water stressed plants taste better. Dont judge by midday droop. Look at plant first thing in the morning. If it’s limp, water only in morning. Dont sprinkle, water deeply. If you mulch, you should ony have to water once every two weeks, deeply. If you are container-gardening, of course, you’ll need to water more often than that, but again, don’t over water.
Determinate or Indeterminate – does it really matter? But there are reasons to choose one over the other. Determinate tomatoes set fruit at the same time in a shorter growing season. Indeterminate tomatoes will grow a lot longer, are more productive, need to be staked.
Tomatoes and basil are good companions. If you buy a six-pack of basil, it will yield 60 plants because you can split each cell up to many little plants.
Marigolds planted around tomatoes thwart nematodes and white fly.
Tomatoes hate corn, potatoes or broccoli, so don’t plant those nearby.
I have followed Karen’s philosophy about having birds in the garden to keep pest populations under control. Keep the birds coming with bird feeders, but hold back from keeping the feeders full all the time to encourage bird foraging. The hope is that they’ll explore your plants for snacks, aka pests.
Karen is a big saver of seeds from tomatoes she loves. Paper towels are perfect seed savers. Write the name of the tomato you are saving on the paper towel, wipe seeds on the surface, throw in shoebox and keep in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant next year.
Tomatoes don’t have to be rotated around your garden. Tomatoes are perennials. If your plant makes it through winter you might see sprouts coming up around the base. If you get this lucky, just cut the old stem back, and hope for the best!
Oh, YUM! I can't wait!!!