Plant Your Tomatoes This Way To Get A Bumper Crop
I NEED my veggies, my burger is not complete without a layer of tomatoes, a blanket of lettuce, a few peppered pickles, and onions to taste.
You give me a bare burger and I’ll give it back. However, I will admit…I HATE shopping for vegetables.
I don’t know where they were grown, what they were grown in, when they were picked, and by whom. Plus the expense, I get why people are so quick to bypass vegetables when they can get double or triple the amount of junk food or “easy” food for half the cash.
But never fear, there is a solution; grow your own for a fraction of the cost and enjoy the process of being self-sufficient while saving money and earning food.
I’m choosing to give you the lowdown on growing my favorite vegetable of all time, tomatoes. (Yes, I realize technically it’s a fruit and when you add it to a strawberry banana smoothie I’ll listen to your arguments, until then, a veggie it will remain.)
I was shocked upon talking to my favorite gardener, my neighbor Floyd about his process of tomato growing and his dedication in gardening the way he was taught many, many, many years ago.
He starts his plants in gallon sized pots in the tail end of January. He keeps them warm and safe in his covered patio. He keeps them there for roughly three to four weeks, ensuring the seeds have time to put down roots.
After they’ve matured, you can transplant them into your garden. If you’ve planted more than one, you’ll want to space them two to three feet apart, giving them enough room to grow without hindering each other.
The hole should be fairly deep, allowing most of the seedling to be covered in soil once it’s planted.
Here’s where it gets weird…
The secret ingredient to a successful tomato plant is…fish heads. I promise this is not a hoax, though I did think Floyd was trying to pull one over on me, that is until he unveiled a bucket of not-quite-rotting-yet fish heads. Now, how you come about these fish heads is up to you.
Floyd, being the old-school guy he is actually fishes for them, cooking their bodies and freezing their heads until he plants.
Others choose to hit up their local fish markets or butchers. This is the first thing to go into your hole.
If fish heads are just too hard to come by or it grosses you out to put a thing with eyes in your garden, head to the store and buy some fish meal. Two handfuls per hole is plenty.
Plants really aren’t that different from humans, we all need a little something extra to get the right start to life.
You give your babies vitamins to boost their immune systems and you give tomato plants aspirin for the exact same reason. Crush a couple and add to the hole.
Now for the eggs, at least part of them; their hearty calcium-enriched shells. Three or four crushed shells is more than sufficient. This added calcium safeguards your plants from blossom rot.
I’d love to tell you you’re done. Drop that seedling in, water accordingly and wait, but no, not yet.
There’s a reason why I see Floyd out in the morning before I leave for work and still in the garden when I return. I think he likes tomatoes even more than I do.
So, now you’ve got dead fish, aspirin, and egg shells, what else could you need…bone meal.
Don’t bother with the measuring cups, just take one handful and sprinkle it over the previous add-ins. Bone meal is organic and full of phosphorous which is vital for the production of multiple blossoms; more blossoms, more tomatoes. I won’t give you another off -the-wall ingredient.
Next is fertilizer, specifically designed for vegetables. Two handfuls of an organic fertilizer packs a huge punch of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.
Although not required, (most of this isn’t, but it sure helps) you can also add in a handful of worm castings.
Check your local gardening store for a bag. If you’re looking for added protection, scatter a third of a cup of Xtreme Gardening’s Mykos onto the roots of your seedling.
That product is a fungi, a useful fungi that attaches to the roots of the tomatoes and prevents diseases like fusarium wilts and verticillium.
Finally, it’s time for your seedling. About time right. If your plant is particularly “stemmy” trim the bottom offshoots so that only a few on the top of the plant remain.
Dust your added ingredients with a light layer of soil, carefully remove the seedling from the pot, no sense in planting a defective seedling, and place it gently into the hole.
Surround your plant with your excess soil, patting down gently when it’s filled. There’s no need to stomp your soil into place, just because dirt doesn’t technically breathe, doesn’t mean those roots don’t need oxygen.
Now it’s time for the water. And a lot of it. While we may not live in medieval times anymore, a moat can still be useful.
Dig around your plant, deep enough so that the water can quickly move from the soil to the roots.
Water is essential on the first day of your plant’s life in the garden. Fill your moat at least three times, allowing it to fully drain before filling it again. After the first day, you can relax a bit more. Hopefully the smell of dead fish has been washed off your hands by then.
Water regularly and keep a close eye out for pests such as aphids, hornworms, and nematodes.
Check your seed package to gauge exactly how long your tomatoes will take until they’re ready for harvest and enjoy each juicy one when they’re ready. Expand your horizons a little while you’re at it.
New recipes are bountiful, grandparents, neighbors, Pinterest, all ready for you and your fresh homegrown tomatoes. For example, did you know, you can pickle tomatoes…who knew right.
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