Planning: My Struggle with Tomatoes

Every year I try to grow tomatoes. I envision these beautiful, full plants that are rich with fruit. What I actually get is nine tomato plants that suffer from sort of leaf issue and only a handful of delicious (and massive) tomatoes. Enough to inspire me to try again next year.

What I’m Growing

This year I’ve taken a step back. Not only am I researching tomatoes prior to planting, but I’ve also decided that instead of growing nine plants, I’m only going to grow four. And to simplify matters more, I’m only growing two varieties; Mamie Brown’s Pink and Martino’s Roma.

Planting

I always start my tomato plants indoors, around 4 to 6 weeks before the first frost and usually the seedlings grow and harden well. Where I think I screw up is planting them too closely together. I give them the minimum space required of 2 feet but I think that’s too constricting. This year not only am I giving them them 3 feet of growing space, but I’m also not planting them next together.

When transplanting the seedlings, I make sure to dig a hole that is deep enough to bury around 2/3 of the plant. Roots will grow along the buried stem a to make the plant stronger.

I’m planning on giving the seedlings an extra boost when planting by mixing in some well-composted coffee grounds to improve the soil composition.

Companions

Tomatoes and carrots love each other. Last year I grew carrots next to my tomatoes. This year I’m growing my tomatoes and my carrots together. Each tomato plant will be surrounded by carrots. This method will hopefully help my carrots and tomatoes both grow beautifully.

Support

I haven’t decided for certain how I’m going to support my tomatoes this year but I’ve narrowed it down to two options. The traditional tomato cages or building a trellis. A trellis, from what I’ve read, has more pros and less cons than tomato cages however this method is more costly.

Disease and Pests

I had a lot of problems with Aphids last year on my tomato plants. Small numbers aren’t a problem but the larger infestations can injury or kill the plants. One natural solution is to introduce ladybugs or lacewings to the garden.

Cutworms can be prevented by placing collars made from paper or cardboard around seedlings. Flea beetles eat the foliage and roots. Clearing away or plow weeds and debris, placing yellow sticky-traps and using row covers on young plants are some ways that can help. Luckily, I’ve never had to deal with either of these and I hope never to have to.

Hornworms are destructive caterpillars that are three or more inches long. They can be picked off plants fairly easily, if found.

I came across this page, How to Manage Tomato Pests at the University of California Davis which talks about 30 diseases that can afflict tomatoes. There is a lot of good information there on the diseases and management. I think I had a problem with early blight last year but I’m not entirely certain. Michigan State University Extension wrote an article called Tomato diseases are on the rise. The focus is specific to Early Bright, Septoria Bright and Anthracnose. I’m finding it’s important to do the research into the diseases that are occurring in the area in order to pick out tomato strands that are more resist to them.

 

 

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