Saturday, April 26, 2014

Welcome the Warm Season

We took time off for Easter, and enjoyed a beautiful spring weekend. Hopefully, you did, too.

Now that the frost date (April 20) has passed, we can breathe easy, and get going with warm season crops.

I am planting our first tomato plant this weekend. It is the fast-maturing, indeterminate hybrid ‘Whopper.’ The plants were started by Stanley’s Greenhouses, and are the perfect size for transplanting. To ensure the formation of a good root system, remove all leaves, leaving only the top two or three leaf clusters, when you transplant tomatoes. Bury the stem all the way up to within about an inch of the lowermost leaves. Also pinch out any bloom clusters present at transplant time. You want the plants to direct their energy into establishing a sturdy root system before fruiting begins. Apply a dark colored mulch, or black plastic, around the base of the plants to help warm the soil, which will still be on the cool side for tomatoes.

Whopper matures in 70 days, so we should be enjoying them after the Fourth of July.

Install tomato supports while the plants are small. This makes the job of tying them later far more easily accomplished. Indeterminate tomatoes will grow to the height of their support and then, if topped, will spread horizontally. Make sure the support you provide is sturdy enough to handle the weight of both the vines and the fruit, even in bad weather. Thunderstorms are likely in late afternoon all during the warm season. You don’t want wind gusts bringing down your tomato planting. The bed in which I am planting Whopper is surrounded by wood posts, to which I plan to attach wire cages to increase the height.

All commercial wire cages are too short for indeterminate tomato plants, and must be supported with additional stakes or posts. Serious gardeners should consider permanent trellises made of the steel mesh used to reinforce concrete. It comes in pieces about 4 feet wide by 7 feet long and can be held upright by various means to create a permanent vegetable trellis.

Not only tomatoes, but also pole beans, cucumbers, winter squash, melons, peppers and peas will benefit from the support provided by this type of trellis.

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