I’m Taylor and I’m guest wandering for your normal Wanderer (Pia). I happen to be her better half…much better actually but don’t tell her that.
Today we start our weekly Wednesday gardening post called The Wednesday Dig. We recently started our own raised bed garden so our first Wednesday Dig post is on how to care for my favorite home grown veggie (or fruit): Tomatoes! These fast-growing, fleshy salad toppers are so much tastier when you grow them at home. We’re going to look at simple ways to take care of them and even simpler ways to make those fruit/veggies taste even tastier.
I once had a professor who said if you had 10 dollars to start a garden, spend nine on the soil and one on the plants. While I don’t entirely agree, with veggies the quality of your soil and the things you put into it greatly affect the taste of your harvest.
*We’re assuming your tomato plants are already somewhat grown from a Home Depot or etc. If you’re growing from seed, wait until your plants are about ten inches high before you make a final planting with all the additives and techniques we’re about to go through.
Start with a deep hole, up to two-feet deep, in the ground. If you’re planting in a pot, make sure the bottom has about four inches of soil in it. For the first layer of additives, we’re going to boost the calcium in the soil. Calcium keeps tomatoes from developing blossom end rot (or in English: the brown hard spots on the bottom of store tomatoes). To produce the calcium, we’re going to add a mix of the following:
- Crushed Egg Shells (about 2 eggs per plant)
- Bone Meal Fertilizer (available at any garden store)
Add just enough dirt to cover the calcium material and add two whole aspirin tablets. The acid in the aspirin will help jumpstart the tomato plant’s immune system.
Gently place the tomato plant in the hole atop your additives. Keep in mind you want two-thirds of the entire stem (the green trunk of the plant) to be buried under the dirt. With this in mind, you’ll need to trim a lot of the bottom leaves off your new little plant. Make it look like a tiny tree with no branches on the trunk but a lush canopy on top.
Before you add fill dirt around the root ball, sprinkle a little bit of the following:
- Rooting Hormone (on the roots)
- 1 Tablespoon Regular Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Epsom salt.
The rooting hormone will keep the plant from going into shock from being transplanted, the sugar will provide nutrients to the different biological organisms already present in the soil, and the Epsom salt will add magnesium to strengthen the plant’s cell walls and boost fruit production.
The next step after covering the plant with dirt (and not compressing the dirt too hard around the root ball) is to do some serious watering. Tomato plants like a good deal of water. In San Diego, this usually means once a day. Directly after planting, you need to water AT LEAST three times the same day.
As your plant grows, you want to keep pruning in mind. We did a little extreme trimming at the beginning to strip the trunk of leaves but now we’re going to do some sniper style snipping. Our main aim in pruning after the plant becomes established is to get rid of suckers. Suckers are small limbs or single leaves stuck in the “crotch” between the main trunk of the plant and a larger limb. See illustration:
Pinch those SUCKERS off, or clip them with a pair of scissors, and all the energy from the plant will be focused on creating juicy red goodness.
Last but not least—as the blooms on the plant start to fade (to eventually become tomatoes), you want to supplement your fertilizing with a little fish emulsion or some more Epsom salt diluted in water. This will help produce your super yummy tomatoes.
Tomatoes rock and so do we. Keep on wandering!