Monday, October 25, 2010

Brandywines at Home

Woo hoo! We have tomatoes!

So I've finally finished planting the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. It's been kind of a slow process ... with me running out every so often and doing another container. I still have to get to the strawberries, broccoli and lettuce. But that's okay, because there's lots of time.

These pictures show the basic large-container set-up for the Brandwine tomatoes. I'm using 25-gallon containers with two vines per container. The soil mix was:

  • 2 parts peat moss
  • 2 parts composted cow manure
  • 1 part perlite
  • dolomite lime (a few handfuls)
  • bone meal (for calcium)
  • blood meal (for nitrogen)
This is an organic-based growing mix that is enriched with slow-release nutrients and will provide plenty of calcium and magnesium. I'm watering every day in the morning. If possible, water your tomatoes in the morning, always at the soil level. Never water tomatoes from above and avoid water and dirt splashing up on the leaves. This will reduce the chance of bacterial diseases.

As for fertilizing, I didn't fertilize at all the first week, but yesterday I started with a program of weekly fertilization with Espoma TomatoTone organic tomato fertilizer. You can use pretty much any vegetable fertilizer you want—I like Espoma because it's organic and I've had good results with it. Here's a tip: whatever fertilizer you're using, use it at half- or quarter-strength every week instead of biweekly or monthly. Plants are just like us ... they prefer lots of small meals rather than gorging on one giant one.

I'm also supplementing once a week with a 1/4-teaspoon of magnesium to boost the plants a bit. Magnesium is widely available in garden centers.

Finally, I'm pinching off all the side shoots on the vining plants (indeterminate tomatoes). These little suckers emerge from the space between the leaf stem and the main vine stalk. If allowed to grow unchecked, they'll reduce the yield and increase leaf mass, which reduces airflow and increases risk of a fungal or bacterial disease. So yeah, keep the vines clean.

And that's pretty much it for the big container-grown plants. This is the great part: it takes a few days for the vines to acclimate to their new home, and then they start growing like crazy. I'm already seeing the first tiny flower buds hanging like little bells, but there are no open flowers yet.

Finally, I'd like to offer a shout-out to this weather. Last year, we had a two-week heat wave in October that nearly did the plants in. This year? Just perfection as far as I can see. This is truly tomato weather.

So you tell me ... how are your plants doing?

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