Tips for raising healthy tomato plants
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Jul 11, 2012 | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Every vegetable grower worth his or her salt, is a tomato grower. I have had more calls about problems with tomatoes this week than I think I ever had. One caller had a rot at the end of the tomato, but only on those tomatoes on one side of her house. One gardener said her tomatoes just wouldn’t grow and mature. Another said hers wouldn’t ripen.

Since I don’t claim to be an expert in tomato-ology, I did the best I could. I contacted people who know more than I about tomatoes. Here are some of the answers I got. A lack of calcium can cause the rot at the end of the tomato. Someone suggested that you water with Tums added to the water. Another grower said she emptied her fish tank water on her tomatoes.

Some soil is lacking in certain nutrients. Too much watering can leach out those nutrients. A good tomato fertilizer is called “Mater Magic” which is new to me but then I haven’t grown tomatoes in several years. I have had several people tell me they are having a great tomato year growing theirs in the upside down containers and one grower uses a five gallon bucket and is having a good crop.

The old tomato growers claimed that a good grower had ripe tomatoes by July 4 so most of you are enjoying the fruits of your labor. Nothing is better to me than a freshly picked tomato with a packet of salt and a nice shady spot.

To finish ripening a tomato indoors, place it with the stem up and a good place to set a tomato to ripen is in an egg carton and you can use both top and bottom of the carton. Do not place a tomato in a sunny window.

Now is a good time to propagate Oriental poppies and bleeding hearts. Though the foliage has vanished, dig down until you find the fleshy roots. Cut a section of root into inch long pieces and plant them where the soil is a rich loam with a little sand. Keep the area fairly moist and lightly covered with straw, and soon tiny leaves will shoot up. The new plants will be ready to move into permanent headquarters by next spring. What an easy way to get more plants. It’s a great idea to have a “nursery” somewhere in your garden and enrich that area to start new plants. It’s best to have it near a spigot with a hose to make it easier to water. I also plant some perennials sometime in July or August and lightly cover the seeded area with straw.

There is another way to propagate plants and that is by layering. Some plants that are easy to start this way are verbenas, pinks, pachysandra, ivy, climbing roses and many flowering shrubs. Any plant with reaching runners will probably take root if you fasten a runner down on soft earth, free of grass, with a wire and covered in a small area, near the wire, with soil. I have always put a brick or rock on the wire so the lawn mower doesn’t cut the layered plant. Hopefully the lawn mowing person won’t hit the brick. That would be a bad thing to have happen. This method of layering will usually work anytime during June, July and August.

Some perennials that will bloom again if you keep them from going to seed are perennial blue salvia, hollyhock, veronica and phlox.

The exceptionally hot and dry summer may require watering perennial gardens every other day. Some plants that need more water are hostas, tall garden phlox, roses and astilbe. You may have others which experience has taught you need more water. Good mulch helps a lot in keeping the soil moist. And, by the way, a good mulch with straw helps a lot in keeping the tomato plans moist.

Some gardener has said that July is just like June only moreso. It’s hotter, wetter or drier. And it’s sure that anything that eats plants is moving around in your garden or if not yet, then soon. The sun loving plants are getting too much shade and the shade loving plants are getting too much sun and every plant is getting holes from some chewing insect. July is when the battle starts. By the end of July is when you look around and wonder why you ever planted so many plants. But, never mind, by next spring you will have forgotten all the work and problems of summer and you will be ready to start all over again. That is why we are called gardeners.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or suggestions or even ideas.
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