On Saturday I took a 1 1/2 hour class on how to grow tomatoes. It was at a house in the Valley, run by the Taylors, a nice couple who have a huge garden in their yard, and are self-confessed tomato geeks. It was well worth the $10. They even gave everyone a tomato plant afterwards. I wished I could have lingered all afternoon in their garden, but I had another class (more in another post) afterwards.
Here are some of my notes from the class, some internet research and a Martha Stewart article that I read beforehand:
Tomatoes come in determinant and indeterminant varieties. Indeterminants get very tall and require a lot of dirt, are better in the ground. They have fruit all season long. Determinants are okay in containers, and have a big harvest all at once, with tons of tomatoes. Determinants still need a 5 gallon container, minimum. All tomatoes should be planted with a metal thing around it called a cage and with a tall stake. You then tie the plant to the stake as it grows. When you buy the plants, the tags gives all of the info about the particular variety, and tells how many days from planting until you will have fruit. Say, 100 days.
The container needs to have holes in the bottom for adequate drainage. When you plant it, dig the hole twice as wide as the container and 1 1/2 times deep. Pluck off the bottom leaves and plant the tomato with the bottom part of the stem buried below where those leaves were. They'll become roots. Use fresh potting soil (they recommend Gardner & Bloom Potting soil) and put in some fertilizer (they recommended Dr. Earth) and 2 aspirin. Water "slowly and deeply" with the hose on trickle for 1/2 hour. At the same time as planting, put the stake and tomato cage in the pot.
Water once a week. The way to check if a plant needs water is first thing in the morning, if the leaves look droopy. They will look that way at night even if they don't need water. 3 weeks after planting, fertilize again with Dr. Earth liquid solution. After that, give liquid fertilizer once a month. Mark on calendar. Make sure to put it on the soil, not the leaves.
That is part 1 of the notes. I have the plants (birthday gift from Mom and Dad plus the one from the class) and some of the supplies but I thought I had 5 gallon containers, turns out (according to Dad) they are only 3 gallon. Which doesn't matter anyway, since it turns out I had indeterminant plants so I need 15 gallon containers. So I ordered some SmartPots online. I also had an upside down planter which I got at CVS. The Taylors don't recommend them, they say you don't have enough control over the plant that way, knowing when to water it, and can't see the soil. But since I have it, I will give it a try. Oh and I don't think it holds even 5 gallons, looking at it.
At the end of the summer, or in 100 days, whatever, I hope to have some tomatoes! A lot of this stuff is a one-time investment and I can use it next year as well, but so far this is shaping up to be a $100 salad! Cross fingers for me that it works!
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