All about Tomatoes

by Jerome Farmers Market, May 26, 2015
The Do's and Don'ts of Growing Tomatoes
by: Jeanne

Don’t purchase seedlings that have flowers on them. You may think you are getting a head start, but really what the plants need to do first is establish their roots, not produce babies. Let them get settled in.
Do pinch those flowers off if you started your own plants and they are budding. Really, you’ll get more fruit in the long run.
Don’t over fertilize. It’s fine to give your plants some good healthy compost, but take it easy on the fertilizer. Too much will grow wonderful bushy and green, albeit unproductive, plants. (Same goes for your peppers by the way.)
Do give them a bit of Epsom salts. They love that stuff. If they don’t need it, it won’t hurt. It is good to have it as a preventative measure to help grow healthier plants.
Do plant your transplants very deep. ‘Up to their necks’ is what the farmers say. This way they will grow a great root system, as mentioned above. The better the roots, the more productive the plants will be.
Don’t water from above, if you can help it. This can cause soil to splash up on the stems, making them more prone to disease. Try to use a soaker hose whenever possible with tomatoes.
Do mulch, especially if you are watering from above. This helps prevent that soil splash just mentioned, as well as holds the moisture your tomatoes may need.
Do put in the stakes you are going to use for support at the same time you plant. You don’t want to go back later and start damaging those roots you both worked so hard for.
Do know what type of tomato you are growing. If it’s a ‘determinate’ type, it may suddenly stop producing. Learn more by following the link at the end of this post.
Don’t stress it. Are you feeling over run with tomatoes? Are you concerned about fruit flies in your kitchen? Simply wash some of those tomatoes off and toss them in the freezer. When you have time, thaw to use. A bonus: the skins will slip right off after defrosting.
Do enjoy a variety if you have the room. Roma and plum tomatoes are best for preserving, slicing types for fresh eating, and of course cherry tomatoes for snacking. Plant tomatoes based on how you intend to use them.
Don’t plant them outside before the soil temperature is 50F. How warm the soil has become is a function of how close the sun is, the depth, and how much sunshine the area gets. Surface soil can feel warm but 6 inches down it can still be quite cold. Some gardeners plant their tomatoes out when the overnight lows are consistently above 50F. Not the same thing, but close.
Do speed up the process by covering the area with black plastic, and turning the soil over every so often. If you plant early, keep those heat-loving tomatoes warm through the use of cloches.
In a pinch, canning jars will do the trick — just don’t let the plants get fried. That’s for the green fruit.

Why do Tomato Plants Split? Why do Tomato Plants Crack?

A tomato crack (or split) is caused by the tomato plant absorbing water too quickly.  The inside expands from the water absorption but skin can’t stretch to accommodate the extra fluid.  So, the skin splits and heals up.

This can happen in a few different scenario:

1.  You forget to water regularly and the soil gets to dry.  Then you finally remember and water a lot to make up for it or it rains.  Then the plant drinks up the water super fast and the skins split.  Whoops!

2.  Your water regularly (maybe once a day after work) but it is extremely hot out.  The soil moister evaporates during the day and the plants dry out.  When you     get home from work and water, he plants absorb the water too quickly and the tomatoes split.

3.  Your soil is too sandy and does not have enough organic matter to hold water.  So, the plants dry and the next time it rains the plans absorb water too quickly and the tomatoes split.

Can you eat tomatoes with splits?

Of course you can eat tomatoes with splits.  You should pick them as soon as possible.  They don’t seem to last as long due to the weakness in the protective skin.  Just cut the affected area and enjoy.

How can you prevent the tomato splits?

1.  Maintain soil moisture by watering frequently and deeply
     -This will decrease the chances of rain splitting your tomatoes
2.  Maintain soil moisture covering the soil with mulch
     -This will prevent the water from evaporating
3.  Choose more resistant varieties if you live in a hot climate
4.  Cover the soil with Veggie Booster Mulch 
     -This will keep the moisture in the soil consistent,
     -Side benefits:  reduce weeding time, reflect more vital red light   wavelengths to the   plant, reduce fruit rotting on the
ground and discourage pests
5.  Make a Crop Cover (row cover fabric) jacket for your tomato plants
     -This can protect from drying winds and harsh sun and keep moisture in
     -Side benefits: protect from pests, fungi, and bacteria
6.  Don’t over fertilize to prevent the plant from growing too quickly

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