The Garden Lady: tomato talk

tomatoesIt’s almost spring, and Texas gardeners are eagerly awaiting their first tomatoes. I saw flats of them at the Dallas Farmers Market two weekends ago. Sometimes people think that if they plant early, they will get the first tomato and have a better yield. That isn’t always the case. In fact, planting tomatoes too early can stunt the plant because of exposure to cold. Tomatoes need an average temperature of 85-92 to bear fruit. Anything out of that range and you are out of luck.

For those who just can’t wait to plant tomatoes, be prepared to shelter them from the cold and wind. Keep in mind that Easter comes in March this year. Every Easter, my family has a reunion, and pictures don’t lie. Every year that Easter was in March, we were all bundled in coats, hats, and mittens carrying our baskets.

When to Plant – First week of April is the safest bet.
How to Plant – Place the root ball deeper than for other plants. The little hair on the stem will become roots and yield a stronger plant. Add soft rock phosphate and alfalfa in the hole before planting.
How to Feed – Weekly foliar feeding and monthly tomato pepper food; they are heavy feeders.
Pests – Tomato hornworm will cut plants down overnight. Nothing works better to find these pests than going out at night with a flashlight; they reflect the light. Otherwise, dipel dust works too.
Problems – The most common problem is not enough minerals in the soil. Blossoms form on the plant, but fall off. Add additional minerals around the base of the plant and water in. This problem should clear up in a week.

I will be running a side-by-side trial on tomato planting this season. I’m plant one now, then another in April. I will photograph the weekly progress and monitor the amount of fruit coming from each plant.  Happy planting!

 

Volunteer with ReTree this Saturday:

The next ReTree Oak Cliff planting is Saturday, March 9.  Meet at 8:30 a.m. at 2735 Burlington. They are planting 25 trees in the the 2600 and 2700 blocks of Burlington in the North Cliff neighborhood.  Volunteers are welcome and wanted.

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  • Lauren

    Thanks for the great advice, Andrea! Everybody loves fresh from the garden tomatoes!