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Gary350
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Posts: 4995
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 5:59 pm
Location: TN. 50 years of gardening experience.

HOW I grow TOMATOES.

About a month about Rainbow Gardener asked me to make this thread to show people how I grow my tomatoes.

In the spring soon as soil can be worked I till my soil every day for 2 weeks to kill all the grass and weeds. The whole purpose of this is to stir seeds to the surface so they will sprout then tomorrow when I till again it kills all the new sprouted plants. Heat from the sun makes new seeds sprout every day and after 2 weeks about 99% of the seeds will have sprouted and died. This gives me a weed free garden most of the summer. I always make sure soil is dry enough to till into a soft powder so not to create mud balls they are hard to get rid of and that is like having a garden full of rocks.

About 2 hours before it gets dark I pull a string between 2 steaks for planting straight rows. I also plant East West rows I will explain why later. I have learned to plant tomatoes on the east side of a tall shade tree this gives the plants cool morning sun until about 12 noon every morning then full shade the rest of the day until dark.

About April 15th I dig holes 3 feet apart about the size of a 10" flower pot in a straight line about 8 plants per row, 3 rows of plants 3 feet between rows After digging all the holes I put a small hand full of 15/15/15 fertilizer in the bottom of each hole. I fill each hole with water then returns about 1 hour later after all the water has soaked into the soil. I cover the bottom of the hole with 1" of soil I do not want my tomato plant roots touching that wet fertilizer spot. I plant the tomato plants deep cover more than 1/2 the stem with soil it will sprout roots any place soil touches the tomato plant stem. Next I put a tomato plant in each hole, fill it in with soil, compact soil by hand and build a tiny levee around each plant. Then I put a tomato cage on each plant with a long 8' steak hammered into the soil to hold up the cage and the 8 foot tall tomato plants. I give each plant a drink of water every day for about a week. After a week I notice the plants starting to grow I never water them again this forces the plants to grow deep roots to be prepared for the 100 degrees weather we will have in June, July and August.

I buy tomatoes in plant trays, each tray holds 4 tomato plants. I buy 6 different varieties of tomatoes every summer so no matter what the crazy weather does I hope at lease 8 or 12 plants will be good producers. We like all the beef steak varieties so I planted, big beef, beef master, beef steak, super star, early girl, and rudger plants this year.

There is nothing to do now but watch the plants grow and wait 65 days for ripe tomatoes. We have a lot of rain in Tennessee but it usually slows down in May and stops about 2nd week of June. Then we have hot weather 95 to 97 with very little rain until late August. We had a few days of 102 degree weather this summer. When my tomato plants are about 15" tall I do a quick walk through the garden with the tiller between each row till only about 1" deep. I only want to break the soil surface this loose soil dries out and acts like insulation to hold moisture in the hard soil below.

May 1st I start checking the soil with a thermometer when the soil warms up to 65 degrees I plant beans. I do not have good luck with bean seeds germinating in cold soil but they always do good when the soil is 65 degrees. I plant beans in the same row with the tomatoes, I also plant a row of beans between each row of tomatoes. Beans take nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil this makes the tomatoes grow much better. About May 10th I planted Blue Lake Bush beans.

Tomato plants are about 5 to 6 feet tall by Mid June and trying to grow taller by July. The tall tops start falling over and grown down toward the soil. Now the tomato plants are starting to look like a 7 foot tall mushroom or umbrella loaded with 100s of ripe tomatoes about last week of June.

Now that most of the plants in the garden are tall they shade the soil. The sun is at its highest point in the sky and the soil is getting good shade from all the tall garden plants. Soil does not dry out in the hot sun because the sun not not shine on the soil so the plants have good moisture to grow in the 97 degree blistering hot sun. Any new weeds that try to sprout and grow are in full shade because the East West rows block the sun better then north south rows. Weeds and grass never get sun and in this hot 97 degrees weather if weeds sprout they soon die. So I still do not need to hoe weeds my garden is very low maintenance until Sept.

Tennessee is the mold and mildew capitol of the world we often get blight about the 3rd week of July. I have tried for 40 years to find a cure for blight it seems to me once you have blight it is too late to stop it. This year I discovered something that works very well for blight. I saved all the empty kitchen food cans burned off the varnish in a fire then put all the cans in buckets of water so they turn to rust. Rusty water works very well for blight but you need to water your plants with rust water and spray the plants with rust water before the plant every get blight. I have also noticed 3 month old plants will get blight where 1 and 2 month hold plants do not so I always have 1 month old plants and 3 month old plants growing in the garden if all the 3 month old plants die the new ones will take their place.

We ate tomatoes all summer and canned 150 lbs of tomatoes by July 15 in mason jars for winter. My tomatoes continued to make good tomatoes until July 30. I tried to save tomatoes from blight the whole month of August but only the 3 young plants survived it is still 97 degrees every day and has not rained in 3 weeks. I planted more tomatoes from seeds so I have new plants starting to produce tomatoes so I pulled up 18 tomato plants to make room for my winter garden where corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, melons, onions, garlic, use to be. I gave away all the extra tomatoes. Once all 24 plants are producing we had too many tomatoes but that did not last long hot weather and blight stopped them from growing.

Now we have 3 new plants making enough tomatoes to give us about 1 tomato every few days hopefully until November. When cool weather comes the tomato plants will do better.

I harvested the beans between the tomato rows a few times then pull them all up about the end of July. The beans and shade tree are my companion plants. Crowding the tomato plants a little too much is companion planting also the tomato plants help shade each other to prevent sun burn tomatoes in 100 degree weather.

I think I have fixed all the typing errors and other mistakes.

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rainbowgardener
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Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: HOW I grow TOMATOES.

Thanks for doing this, Gary. It does help me understand better about growing tomatoes in this climate. I am in the Chattanooga area. We never broke 100 degrees, but we had 98, 99 for long stretches. It basically has been over 90 almost every day since some time in early June and still is (but lower 90's now and with cooler nights and mornings) and will be for about another week. And we are in extreme drought and have had next to zero rain since sometime in May (not usual for here). So my tomato plants have not thrived the way I am used to. I did notice the the ones that got more shade did better, something else I am not used to. More northern gardeners would be amazed at the idea of planting tomatoes in the shade of a tree, but I can see that it would work better.

So you said you don't water again after the first week or so? Even through all the 100 degree weather and no rain?
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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Dirt Man
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Joined: Tue Sep 13, 2016 2:37 am

Re: HOW I grow TOMATOES.

rainbow, I think I forgot to mention I also put a pretty good amount of pellet lime in each hole too to prevent BER. My grandfather use to throw a hand full of rusty nails in the hole for blight that was in southern Illinois 50 years ago.

Every year about 3rd week of July when the rain stops and there are no clouds in the sky, my tomatoes are in the blistering hot sun the plants get blight. I have been fighting blight for 40 years and this year i noticed the tomatoes that get shade from the big tree 12 noon to dark are still alive I have also been spraying plants with rust water and the plants look terrible but still alive and still making tomatoes. Rust water sure does seem to slow down blight but it is no cure. We had 2 months if 97 degree weather and very little rain. It finally rained yesterday after 2 weeks of no rain. When the weather cools down tomatoes will do better. My tomato plants are probably 15 feet long they grow up inside the cage and get about 8 feet tall then the tops get heavy and hand down to the soil, they continue to grow across the ground. I think it is helpful to cut the plants off so they are only about 6 feet tall they grow new leaves and blossom then make more tomatoes in cool weather.

10 plants died and I pulled them up. I trimmed 3 plants short to about 6 feet tall. I have 7 late plants that were planted about July from seeds that are making tomatoes. I have 10 plants in pots 12" tall planted from seeds that i need to plant this plant in the garden this week. These new plants will do better than the old plants. These new plants should start to make ripe tomatoes about Halloween that is usually when have first frost. Late Oct I keep the plants covered at night we might still might have tomatoes by December if I can keep frost from killing them. If we have a late winter we might have tomatoes for Christmas dinner.

For many years I put tarps over the tomatoes 6 feet high on poles July, tomatoes in the shade do much better than plants in the sun. Shaded plants still suffer from the 100 degree heat but they still make tomatoes.

Gary350 here, my computer crashed. I don't remember my password the forum says, i have exceeded my number of guesses.

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rainbowgardener
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Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: HOW I grow TOMATOES.

message webmaster; he can get you connected back as Gary... :)
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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