Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Keeping Tomato Plants Healthy - 4 Week Update




So, a few weeks ago, I shared that I was trying a third time to start a tomato garden. This was, of course, after two failed attempts. Due to poor soil in my yard, I tried a raised bed with organic soil. You can read about that here.

Because my tomato plants either died or didn't produce much fruit in the past, I reached out to friends who garden and homestead for tips to keep them healthy and productive.

If I can't make it happen, I'll borrow someone else's technique. A little unoriginal, I realize. But at least I'm paying it forward by sharing with you! That counts for something, right?

First off, I have a confession. One of my original plants died the first week. B said it was a bad plant and we shouldn't buy it, but I didn't hear him and loaded it in the cart.

And he got the opportunity to say "I told you so". Awesome.

I replaced the dead plant with a Roma tomato plant to add variety, and moved on.

Based on the advice I received, I tried a couple of new techniques this year:

  • Mulch with grass - This one was easy and free! To hold moisture in, I gathered up some grass clippings after B mowed the yard (a handy one, that one), and scattered them over the organic soil (leaving a 2" radius around each plant to give it some space).
  • Watering Technique - I can't take all of the credit this year. Mother Nature has given us a rainy spring. Bad for weekend plans, good for tomatoes. Besides the weather, I tried something new - watering spikes. They stake in the ground, hold a water bottle, and slowly distribute water into the soil. I ordered a package of 6 of these online. Here's how I set them up:
    • Buy 6 plastic bottles of water (I had 16 oz bottles on hand, liter bottles work, too).
    • Cut the bottoms off of the water bottles and remove the cap and ring.
    • Fill watering spike with sand to slow down the water flow, otherwise the water will flow out immediately. I didn't need a giant bag, so I found a small bag in the vase filler section of Michael's.


    • Place mouth of water bottle in the spike as tight as it will go.
    • Place spike into ground as close to plant as possible.


    • Use a watering can to pour water into the bottles every day it doesn't rain (ideally morning or night when it's not too hot to evaporate).

  • Structure - Okay, yes, I did this in prior years, too. It's still important! Since tomatoes are a vine, they need to be attached to a structure, otherwise they will fall and touch the ground - no good. I used a cage, but stakes are fine too. 

The result? The plants are strong and healthy! Each plant has a few blooms, which means tomatoes are on the way. Even more important, salsa is on the way!
  

I can't even believe I'm responsible for this!



If you've had rough luck with tomatoes in the past, I recommend trying a raised bed and these techniques. I'll provide another update soon!

What strategies have been effective for you in keeping tomato plants healthy and productive?

-Amy

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3 comments :

  1. I am currently enjoying some delicious cherry and roma tomatoes from a neighbor's garden.

    I have what is known, in the gardening community, as a "Black Thumb." So I will do everyone a favor and not offer any advice or tips, because it will only end in misery. :)

    However, your plants are gorgeous and I'm sure the fresh tomatoes are divine. Enjoy and congrats on a job well done!

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    Replies
    1. Yum! My romas are just blooming.

      Haha, I've failed twice, so don't feel bad! It can be very tricky with varying soil conditions and weather where we live. I think I may have found what works for me (fingers crossed)!

      Thank you!

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