Laurel's Tomato Growing
Favorite Garden Products
10,000 little plants growing happily in one of our
greenhouses in early February. We start this many plants
from seed every 3 weeks and when they are big enough, off
they go to their new homes.
it will be warm up enough to roll up the walls let the sun
The information below offers some sound basic techniques which I've
learned from my
years of gardening experience since 1954, at the age of 4, when I planted some
pumpkin seeds in my Grandma's birdbath. They sprouted; I was thrilled. There are many excellent
gardening books and websites available to help you with your garden. Stay
organic if you can; feed the soil, take care of the pollinators. You will be a doing fine
thing for our environment, you'll have a fabulous garden, and the Earth will be happier.
How Much Sunlight?
tomato plants require a minimum of 6 to 7 hours of
direct sunlight for proper growth. More direct sunlight; healthier plants; 10 hours is optimum.
12 is awesome. They also need rich deep fluffy well-nourished soil for garden health,
and for the best possible flavor in
your homegrown tomatoes.
Preparing Your Soil
To begin, let me stress the fact that the finest tasting tomatoes come from
plants grown in rich, healthy well-amended soil. The
taste of a tomato, (or any crop) grown in poor soil can be flat
and bland compared to the big grand tomatoey taste of the same variety grown
right next door in well-tended soil, teeming with biological activity. Organic
soil amendments are the key. Add compost every year. If you don't have a
compost pile going, use bagged, purchased compost from the garden store.
Better yet, start a compost pile. Many fine books and articles are available
online and at libraries to help you learn how to make and use your own compost. It's easy and
fun and the
best gift you can give your garden.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be very cautious when buying soil by the cubic yard. Some
of these companies are less than honest and mix everything they can scoop up and
buy from farms who want their debris hauled away, or feedlots or shredded wood
from tree-trimming companies, mix it all together and call it 'organic composted
soil for vegetable gardens' which it is NOT. With so many folks starting gardens
these days, a lot of unscrupulous characters are getting into the 'organic
garden soil' business. They do not care about your garden. They are not your
friends. They will tell you whatever you want to hear -- you will have no idea
of the origin of this stuff.
And it is cheap for a reason! In many cases it has fresh un-composted cow or
horse or other manure with a lot of urine and un-composted pine shavings which
will ruin your plants. Be sure to get a sample of the exact soil you want to buy
before you lay out a penny. It should be rich and dark and humusy without chunks
of wood or strong odor or pieces of metal or paper in it. When it arrives on the
truck, please insist on inspecting the soil before you let them dump it. If they
won't let you inspect the load, send them packing. If they dump it, you have to
pay for it.
If it smells bad, do not buy it! It should smell sweet and earthy, not
like a cow farm or urine soaked feedlot. If it has a lot of wood pieces,
twigs, etc, do not buy it. The nitrogen in the soil will spend all of its energy
trying to digest, or decompose the wood pieces, leaving your plants without
proper nutrition. I cannot tell you how many customers have called and
told me about the soil they bought by the truckload with devastating results in
Dig and loosen your soil deeply, as deep as you can, at least 15"
more if possible. Remove rocks and other garden debris.
Be sure your soil has plenty of natural organic amendments like planting
mix, compost, etc., so it is loose, rich, healthy and fluffy. Think
FLUFFY. Below is a photograph of my garden
beds, using Tomato Plant Protectors to extend the season 4 weeks by planting
in early to mid March. You can get them here, 3 for $12.95.
We use handy horse
manure well-composted and applied at about 2" twice a year along with
about a half inch of chicken manure.
The beds are deeply dug, fluffy, and amended 20 inches deep, then built up
14 additional inches into raised beds. (Note cute 2½ ft. grandchild for photo scale.)
I use 2" x 6" planks between the beds for pathways--very narrow pathways--
we don't let giant persons walk these planks! We water by flooding these
pathways for an hour once a month.
Please use natural soil amendments and
fertilizers. The key to a healthy happy garden is to feed the soil which feeds
the plants. Add a little bit of
horse, cow, rabbit or chicken manure, also according to package
directions, and lots of a soil amendment like planting mix or planting compost from a
reputable nursery. Fluffy soil is our goal.
This is not the time to
try to save money. Find good quality organic bagged planting mix or planting
compost which shows you its ingredients and origin on the bag. Avoid the
artificial chemically enhanced soil
amendments like Miracle-Gro planting mix or potting soil, as they are too strong
plants causing the flavor to be ruined and they don’t nourish the soil.
Your tomato bed can be tilled mechanically,
or dug by hand. Raised beds should be
built up as high as soil volume will allow. I build my beds at least 12” high above the
soil line. Combined with the loosened and amended soil 16” below, that’s a
fine fluffy 28" deep bed for tomato plants. Very heavy soils and clay can
require a tiller and/or a really strong, helpful, digging-type person with a
lot of time and energy, who likes you a LOT and to whom you offer free garden
You can use lumber or concrete blocks or even bales
of straw to frame your raised beds. Bales can be formed into a frame any size or
shape you want, then filled in
with organic top soil, planting mix, compost and fertilizer. You can make them as high as
you like. Easy access, nice place to sit, very fluffy beds, and the straw
eventually breaks down and feeds the soil.
Space your beds so you can plant your seedlings about 30-36" apart in rows
at least 42-48" apart. More space, better air-flow and root growth: better
Avoid walking on the soil, and don’t let anyone else walk on it or step
on it, as this will compact it, and the roots will not be free to grow healthy
and strong. (Fluffy…) Hint: In my experience, if someone walks onto your garden bed,
do not go berserk. Remain calm and ease them off gently--as scaring them will cause much running
and hopping in the garden bed--just what we are trying to avoid.
Water the beds really well until the entire soil volume is moist, and, if you have time, let the soil relax
undisturbed for 3-4 days to a week to let the natural microbial systems begin
their amazing activity and enrichment of the soil. Got worms? Yay. When you see
earthworms, your soil is happy.
Now we kick back, relax and wait until night
temperatures are reliably above 55º for about 2 weeks to give the soil a chance
to warm up. You can measure soil temperature with a soil thermometer or digital
Before Planting Out
until night temperatures are reliably above 55º for a couple of weeks. It
takes that long for the soil to warm up.
The soil must be warm when you plant! Tomatoes are a hot weather crop, not a
sort-of-starting-to-warm-up-weather crop. So kick back and wait...
Soil is warm? Okay, almost ready to plant. Dig your nice deep planting hole
a foot deep and a foot wide, and place a small handful, about 4 tablespoons, of a good organic granular plant food into
that cubic foot of soil, (use package
directions) mix it all around to distribute it evenly with the soil in the
planting hole. The natural fertilizer will not burn
your seedling’s roots the way the artificial fertilizers can.
I use Fox Farms Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer.
plants have buds or blossoms on them when they arrive, and you have a long
growing season, snip or
pinch off any buds and blossoms. Leaving flowers on the plants at
this early stage can take some of the growing power away from the root system. Remove
buds and flowers for about 7-10 days after planting out. (Skip this
step if you have a very short growing season.) If you leave flowers on the plant now, you may get a weaker plant and a smaller harvest during the season.
may seem like leaving the blossoms on now will give you earlier and more fruit.
You will get early fruits, but the plant may not be as strong or
healthy, and may not produce as many tomatoes for you unless you pinch off those
blossoms for a week or two.
some bottom foliage, about half of it, pinching or
snipping off the lower foliage -- it should look like a palm tree-- you will be placing the plant deeply into the ground so that only this top
foliage is above the soil line and the stem from which you removed foliage will
be buried. Those little hairs along the
length of that buried stem will become nice strong feeder roots will
grow all along the length of that buried stem, giving you a much healthier plant
and a far more abundant harvest.
Plant your seedlings
at least 30” apart in rows at least 48” apart. This
way they will get plenty of air flow and ample room to grow a bountiful crop for
you. Crowding your plants will encourage foliage disease. Set your plant very deeply into the moist, deeply loosened, and well
amended (fluffy) soil, until only that top foliage is above the soil line.
Please be careful not to put your plants into dry soil; it will scratch and
damage their little roots. Replace the soil around the plant, and firm it
gently into the ground so the roots make full contact with the soil, and the
soil remains fluffy. Water the plant in, until the soil is completely moistened.
Try not to let the foliage get wet.
important, inexpensive and easy.
Lay down a loose layer, 4"- 5", of
straw, hay, dried leaves or dried pine needles over the soil beneath your
plants. The mulch will keep the soil moist, the soil temperature even, and prevent splash-up when you
water, thus keeping the foliage dry and controlling fungal disease. Be sure to
stir the mulch around once a week or so to prevent fungus growth in moist
tightly-packed mulch. In very hot
climates, use 6" - 7" of mulch. Cover the entire bed except for the
are nearest the main stem, leave bare a 3" - 4" diameter area at the base of the main stem to keep the stem
mulch will also break down over the season and nourish your soil.
You will feed
your plants the day you plant, and again every 3 weeks.
Then, just give them a
light feeding of Great Big Tomatoes, liquid fish and kelp, (follow package
directions) and another dose of organic Happy Frog
Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer scattered at the base
of the plant every 3 weeks, about 2 to 3 tablespoons scratched into the soil surface and watered in gradually when you
feeding is highly recommended for tomato plants, really easy and fun.
Great Big Tomatoes Liquid Compost or Kelp
or Fish Emulsion Liquid, in a half-strength ratio
can be sprayed directly onto the foliage in morning or evening every two weeks, but
not during mid-day sun when the heat prompts the leaves to close their pores.
that, your tomato plants will need a foliar spray or soil drenching every 3
weeks with a Great Big Tomatoes,
kelp-fish emulsion liquid, also per bottle directions. We have both products
available. See below.
Great Big Tomatoes and Big Bloom Liquid. Remember that excess feeding
will cause excess foliage growth and very few tomatoes as it stresses the plant
and can cause disease. Important: feeding with ‘the blue stuff’ will cause
excessive foliage growth and no fruit set and does nothing to nourish the soil.
Try to use something natural. I believe the only thing blue in your
garden besides flowers ought to be your jeans.
Nutrition and Disease Control
Here are our 2 Plant Nutrition Kits.
All items can also be purchased separately.
Nutrition Kit C-5, The Ultimate Kit, $82.50
Everything you need for a spectacular tomato
4 lb. box Happy Frog Tomato &
Big Bloom Organic Natural Liquid Fertilizer
32 oz. Great Big Tomatoes Liquid
Compost & Fertilizer Booster
16 oz. Neem Concentrate for insect and foliage disease
Rapitest Deluxe Moisture Meter
Plant Nutrition Kit A, The Basic Kit, $55.95
4 lb. bag Happy Frog Granular Tomato &
Big Bloom Liquid Fertilizer
16 oz. Neem Oil Concentrate
Rapitest Deluxe Moisture Meter
Tomato & Vegetable Food
Before you can bring a great meal to your
table, you need to bring a great meal to your garden.
Tomatoes, soft fruits, and veggies require a special
nutritional mix to ensure high yields. Our Tomato &
Vegetable formula is pH-balanced with premium organic
ingredients like bat guano, kelp meal, alfalfa meal,
fish meal and naturally occurring organic material that
is formed when organic matter decomposes.
The ratios between nitrogen, phosphorus,
and potassium will allow the plant to feed vigorously
while producing abundant high quality fruit. Happy Frog®
Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer also contains calcium
which helps control blossom end rot and builds stronger
cell walls, making plants more disease resistant.
Garden tip: Start
applying Tomato & Vegetable as soon as you set out young
plants in the spring. Use monthly through harvest time.
For established plantings, scatter 1/2 cup for every 2
feet of plant height. Lightly scratch into the top inch
of soil and water thoroughly.
This organic formula is the
best in the world and my favorite
for tomato plants, chile plants, eggplant, squash, beans,
and all other garden vegetables and fruits.
4 lb. bag, enough to feed 18 plants for the season. $10.95
order, include it with your plant list.
Big Bloom Liquid Fertilizer from Fox Farm
Bloom Liquid Fertilizer
0.3 - 0.7
Our plants are growing
better than ever since we switched to
Fox Farm nutrients.
Here is Big Bloom, a
live culture of vitamins, amino acids,
natural growth hormones, enzymes and
micro-brewed formula has earthworm
castings, bat guano, kelp and other
organic ingredients that offer a full,
mild, and balance range of nutrients.
The Norwegian kelp improves nutrient
uptake and increases your yields.
How TO USE: 4
Tablespoons per gallon of water every
other time you water.
FOLIAR FEEDING: 1
tablespoon per gallon of water once a
week during early stages of plant
32 Ounce Bottle, $14.50.
order, include it with your plant list.
BioSafe Disease Control. 32 ounce
I've been recommending
BioSafe Disease Control to my customers
for several years. We use it to
prevent and control foliage disease on
the plants we send you. Now it's
This handy bottle
attaches to your garden hose so you can
easily spray your plants. No need for
mixing! It automatically mixes with
water for the perfect solution to
foliage disease problems.
Also as as a soil drench to
fight soil borne pathogens.
Back for 2015!
Great Big Tomatoes
Aunt Ruby's German Green
Beefsteak AKA Red Ponderosa
In Quarts and
disease and reinvigorate tired soil.
For use in addition to your regular
safe, 100% organic addition to your basic fertilizers, compost or
manure in your garden. Boosts the power of your fertilizers!
Can be used as a
soil drench and a
Using Great Big
Tomatoes Natural Compost Extract for
will help maximize plant and fruit
in your garden or container soil.
The formulation for tomatoes
includes beneficial microbes, humic
acid, kelp and minor nutrients plus
a large dose of specially fermented
biotic solution to boost microbial
population and help suppress
old garden beds or soil that has had
Great Big Tomatoes is specifically
formulated for tomato vigor and
suited for soil that's had disease
problems or poor old tired soil that
needs a boost.
recommend one quart of Great Big
Tomatoes to feed 6 to 8 tomato
plants all season. Our Gallon Size
is an excellent and economical
We have been using
Great Big Tomatoes on
our nursery seedlings and the tomato plants in our home garden this fall
and winter, along with Fox Farm Big Bloom Liquid Fertilizer and Fox Farm Happy Frog Tomato and Vegetable
Fertilizer are thrilled with the results. Stronger
stems, hearty, robust foliage and increased yield have convinced
us that Great Big Tomatoes is the answer to maximum growth with
minimum effort. One quart makes 8 Great Big
Gallons of easy to use Enriched Liquid Compost. To order,
include with your plant list. Use on your entire garden!
Lawn, trees, garden beds, shrubs, flowers, everything!
32 oz. Bottle Makes 8
Also available in One Gallon
bottles, $54.95, a great value. You save $24.85
A favorite among
gardeners, tomatoes are a joy to grow.
But growing tomatoes doesn’t always come
easy. With a lot of love and a little
help from Great Big Tomatoes you can help
nurture your plants to grow hearty tomatoes
that not only taste great, but look
Tomatoes is all organic, environmentally
safe and something you can feel good
simple steps below, and it won’t be long
before you start reaping the following
- Increased fruit set and harvest
color, better flavor, and bigger size
- Improved foliage health
insect infestations and disease
tomatoes is as easy as watering.
- Add 4
Tomatoes to a
gallon of water.
- Use every 2 weeks during the main
growing season, once a month
thereafter. Use in addition to your
Growing In Containers? Try our Smart
Pots, now in 3 sizes and 2 colors!
Now in 2 Colors !
left, an Amy's Sugar
Gem seedling getting started in a 20 gallon
Smart Pot, 20" across and 15.5" deep, just add a
tomato cage for support. Center, a 100 gallon
pot with 3 very happy plants. On the right, our
new tan Smart Pots. Fold down about an inch of
the top to create a handhold--makes a great
We also offer
the 25 gallon Smart Pot, great for large tomato
plants and 30 gallon size, best for the largest
plants which can grow to more than 7 feet tall
and 4 feet wide. Yes, true!
tomato plants need a lot of root space and a
large soil volume to grow to optimum size and
Each reusable 20 gallon Smart Pot, $11.95.
25 gallon size, $12.95
30 gallon size, $13.95
To order, include with your plant order.
Tomato Plant Protectors
A mini greenhouse for each plant! With
these 18" tall water-filled insulating teepees you can plant
several weeks earlier than normal and get an early harvest!
The water in the tubes absorbs solar heat during the day and
releases heat steadily during the night keeping your plants
and the soil warm and cozy.
Great for tomatoes,
eggplants, peppers, cucumbers and any other plants which
need protection from the cold.
When the weather warms up, remove them, dump out the water,
hang them upside down to dry -- ready for next season!
3 for $13.95. To order, include with your
Insects Buggin' You?
Above: Aphids, Whitefly & Mite
Damaged Plants :(
If I see an insect
infestation on my tomato plants I use Neem oil, (available here) for insect problems like aphids, whitefly and spider mtes
If you have just a
few aphids on your plants, knock them off daily
with a sharp spray of water.
Try to do this when the sun is shining
so yourplants will dry quickly to avoid fungal diseases.
Spider mites and
whitefly can do a lot of damage quickly if you don't
stop them at
first sign of infestation. Neem works beautifully. You must spray for them
every 4 days until they are gone. Be sure the spray saturates
the undersides of the leaves where the mites are living. Spray
until the foliages drips. This schedule takes into
account their lifecycles and will stop new hatchings. Spray at
sundown to avoid hot sun and possible leaf burn.
After that, spray once a week for prevention.
If you discover a
mite infestation which has gotten out-of-hand, neem may not
work. There are some hot pepper sprays that are also
organic but stronger than neem and should take care of a
serious mite problem. 2014 was a bad year for mites--well,
good for them--bad for gardeners. Hot dry weather can trigger an
outbreak, so keep an eye on your plants. Check them daily, and
use a magnifying glass if you suspect an infestation.
Here's what to
Spider Mites Damage on Tomato Leaves! Boo, bad.
two organic sprays for mites and other insects which can
damage your precious tomato
Neem and Hot Pepper Wax.
weather, spray neem at sundown to avoid leaf burn. If you use
Neptune's Harvest Hot Pepper Wax, a capsaicin based hot-pepper spray as you go into battle, use a mask
to avoid inhaling it and use eye protection too.
follow label directions and be sure to spray after the happy,
friendly bees and other pollinators finish their rounds in the
morning and evening.
Neem Oil Concentrate
16 oz. bottle. Mix 2 Tbsp. in a gallon of water.
To order, include with your plant list. $21.95.
Organic Neem Oil
Concentrate, 16 oz. Mix 2 Tbsp. per gallon of
water. One bottle should last 2 seasons in the average size garden.
3 in 1
product; insecticide, fungicide and miticide.
fungal diseases like powdery mildew along with rust, anthracnose, leaf spot, blight and other diseases.
Kills aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, scale and many other insect pests.
organic, made from true Neem oil - extract of the Neem seed.
Neem is not enough, go for the Hot Pepper Wax!
bottle, Ready To Use
This past year saw a a lot of
spider mite damage. Gardeners and growers
had a struggle trying to deal with spider
mites all across the country. Once an
infestation gets started, you have to nip it
in the bud!
This natural insecticide
protects plants from aphids, whitefly and
This hot pepper
spray leaves a film barrier that will
protect your plants by repelling these
that they are not just annoying....aphids
and whitefly vector diseases to your plants.
Mites just suck the life out of them and
destroy your precious tomato plants.
Oz Bottle, Ready to Use, or
16 oz Concentrate
Did you know a single caterpillar can
completely denude a tomato plant overnight?
The moth hovers and
flits around your plants, touching down here and there
depositing eggs on the leaves. The caterpillar starts out
the size of a tiny green thread. A week or 2 later, they're
the size of a 4 Door 1964 Buick Electra 225, munching away on your plants.
This biological insecticide for control of leaf
chewing worms and caterpillars is effective on vegetables, fruits, shade trees and
If hand picking is not an option or caterpillars have gotten out of control
and are damaging foliage or fruit, Organic Bt is the answer.
It paralyzes the digestive system of caterpillars--chewing
damage stops within 5 hours.
Can be applied up to the day of harvest.
Selective - will not harm bees and other
Contains Bacillus Thuringiensis.
Micro-encapsulated formula provides time release insect pest control.
Contains 12% Bacillus Thuringiensis.
Too much water? Not enough?
Help control your watering challenges!
To order, include with your
The foremost challenge new tomato gardeners face is
knowing how much water their plants need. Be very careful not to over-water your tomato plants. Along with
over-feeding, this will stress the plants and is one of the major causes of
blossom end rot, yellowing leaves, root rot, foliage drop-off, blossom drop,
broken hearts and crying in the garden. Does
the top of the soil look dry? Does it look like it 'needs a drink'? That's okay,
it's supposed to look like that--just don't water until the soil is getting dry down at
the root area.
tomato plants need about one inch to an inch and a half of water per week. In very dry
climates, perhaps 2". In clay soil, water deeply every 2 weeks.
Test your soil for moisture before you water by carefully checking the soil around your plant
8 to 10 inches
or more below the surface, down at the root
zone. If it is moist, do not water.
The soil should be damp, like a squeezed out sponge. Buy yourself a moisture meter, a great investment, at about $15.00
to $20.00 from the
garden store, and use it before you decide to water.
Tomato plants thrive with even, moderate watering. The soil should be
moist, not wet. Never wet. Trust your moisture meter. Push it
way down into the soil, as far as it will go. If
the soil is moist down at the root level, (where you planted the root ball), the
plant will be very happy.
Get yourself a moisture meter, it's a great investment and will rescue you from
watering quandaries. We have them, $14.95.
Do your best to keep the foliage dry
when you water your plants.
Wet leaves invite disease, especially the fungus diseases. Keep the leaves as
dry as possible by watering way down at the soil line, by not
watering overhead or sprinkling, and by using a nice thick 4-5 inch layer of
mulch, like dried leaves, straw, hay, etc, at the base of the plants to prevent
back-splash and retain soil moisture.
These plants get big, from 5 to 12 or 15 feet tall and more. True
story. That's why they're called tomato vines. They need serious support. Some gardeners let them sprawl on the
ground, but I find letting them lie on the ground can invite disease, and decreases my yields due to insect damage,
and I tend to trip or fall over the sprawling plants and step on tomatoes whilst
harvesting in bare feet. Ack.
If you use tomato cages, get the tallest, strongest ones you can find. For smaller cages, you must stake each cage at the inside edges, with two 5 or 6 foot, 1” or
2” inch wide stakes, (if 1”, use two or three 3 stakes), wood or metal,
pounded at least 8 to 10 inches into the ground.
My favorite method is called the basket weave. I use 8 ft. tall, 2"
redwood or cedar stakes pounded 14" to 16" deep into the ground every 6 to
feet along the centerline of each row. I plant 3 plants, evenly
spaced between the rows, in rows 4-5 feet apart.
Please be sure you do not use chemically treated wood in your vegetable garden,
it leaches into the soil and through your skin.
As the plants start to get taller, I string twine or heavy string horizontally
along the row, about every 10-12 inches apart up the stake, starting about 15
inches from the ground. The twine is
strung tightly from stake to stake as I walk down the row looping it around each
stake for a good hold, horizontally all the way down the row, along one side,
and then down the other side of the row of plants, with the plants between the
horizontal strings. This supports the heavy tomato plants on each side as they
get taller. Then I gently tie each
plant’s stem to the horizontal twine at two or three levels as the plants get
taller. The twine trellising lines continue up the stakes 5 or 6 ft. (See photo
below with yellow twine horizontally tied from stake to stake.)
You can also buy strong pre-made net trellising, attach it to the stakes
and secure your plants to it. Be
sure it is 6 feet high, which may require two levels of netting.
Many growers use 5 foot high concrete reinforcing mesh with 6” weave,
attached with u-nails to the stakes all along the length of the rows.
is available in rolls at home improvement stores.
Many gardeners also use this rolled wire fencing to make tomato cages
about 30” in diameter. Unroll the length you need, cut it with wire snips,
leaving prong edges long enough to bend around the other edge of the section you
make your own sturdy tomato cages. It may require a helper to wrangle the roll
as you cut it so it won't spring back and get you. These cages will last for many seasons.
Another way to support your plants is staking. You
will get heavy when laden with fruit, so use a strong 6 foot or 8 foot
tall, 2 inch wide stake for each plant, pounded 16-20 inches into the ground
just before planting.
Tie the plant’s main stem to the stake every 12 inches as the plant grows. You
may need to guy or attach the stakes to ground supports or other sturdy structures
like telephone poles or walls. You
may want to prune the plant suckers to keep them at a manageable size when using
stakes. Be sure to leave a full
canopy of foliage to protect the fruits skin from sunburn, AKA sunscald.
You can also simply
let your plants sprawl on the ground--their natural habit. Many
gardeners use this 'technique' with great success.
The best tomato supports on the
market and my absolute favorite:
TomatOHHolders. They are awesome. Go here:
Growing In Containers
NOTE: You cannot use old
soil for tomatoes. Period. But you can use it for other
veggies and flowers.
21" wide, 15.5" deep 25 gallon Smart Pot with Amy's
Sugar Gem tomato seedling.
You Will Need:
One very large pot for each
plant; at least 18” across and 15” deep; bigger is better, 18-50
gallon capacity. 25 gallon pots are good. 30 gallon pots,
even better. 50 gallon containers will hold 2 plants.
of the Smart Pot above.
Tomato plants have vast root
systems and will produce far better yields with ample container
space. Bigger pots, better plants.
Enough potting soil to fill
each container to within 1" of the top.
For a 25 gallon container,
this would be about 2 or 3 standard 1.5 cubic ft. bags of
potting soil. Most high quality potting soil has compost in
it, but you can add ¼ volume of soil-free compost. By good
potting soil; this is not where you should try to save
Granulated natural organic
fertilizer for vegetables like our favorite Fox Farm Happy Frog Tomato &
Vegetable Food and a liquid fertilizer
for foliar spray feeding. I use
Great Big Plants Liquid Compost and a good liquid Fish& Kelp
concentrate. Great stuff!
1 or 2 1" wooden stakes for
each pot, 1" by 5 ft'.
Tomato cages, the stronger the
better, to fit into the containers. My favorite? TomatOH!
A top quality moisture meter.
Organic insect and disease
Mulch, like composted grass
clippings, straw or hay or dry leaves, or plastic.
There are many
products on the market for insect problems and all gardens and
greenhouses will have an occasional infestation. Please use products
which are Earth friendly. Keep in mind a healthy fertile soil is the
key to great tasting tomatoes and combating insect infestations and plant diseases.
tomato plant will grow well in a pot, if it is tended properly and
the pot is large. Start with the largest pot you can find, a minimum
of 18" across the top and 18" deep. We use the 25 to
gallon Smart Pots. Half whiskey barrels are available at garden stores, some folks use big trash barrels or deep heavy plastic tubs
with 6 or 8 ½" holes drilled in the bottom for drainage, try stacked
up tires, truck or tractor tires if you can find them, stacked bales
of straw as a frame, stacked up concrete blocks, Grandpa’s old truck
Some of the
smaller plants we offer can be grown in 10 or 15 gallon containers
with great success. I have found that the huge tomatoes do not
produce as many fruits in containers as do small to medium sized
good potting soil, not garden dirt or top soil. Never put
garden dirt into your containers. It's cheaper but will
transmit soil borne diseases within the confined space of your
containers. Please avoid
Miracle-Gro type soil or Miracle-Gro type fertilizers; tomatoes do
not like the 'blue stuff'. It causes them a lot of stress and ruins
their flavor due to too much nitrogen.
You cannot use soil from last
season for tomatoes. Period. But you can use it for other
vegetables of flowers, just let it dry out thoroughly during
the off-season and replace about half of it with soil-free
compost and fresh potting soil.
I use organic potting soil,
like Fox Farm, Black Gold, Whitney Farms, Dr. Earth. So: potting soil,
fresh soil-free compost, a granular organic fertilizer mixed in well; a great
start for container tomatoes. Be sure it is a good quality
potting soil without too much nitrogen fertilizer added.
you're at the nursery, buy yourself a good quality Moisture Meter,
about $15.00-$20.00. It is an essential tool. We have them available
for $14.95. (The $6.00 moisture meters are worth $6.00.)
need a tomato cage for each pot. (Only one tomato plant per pot.)
the containers in full sun, where they will get a minimum 6-7 hours
of direct sunlight per day more sunlight; even better. 10 hours is
the pot or barrel with your soil mix and moisten it thoroughly.
You can add a 20% volume of perlite to save a bit on potting
sure it drains well out of the bottom. Do not add stones or shards
of pottery for drainage or anything to the bottom of the pots as
that will damage the root system. Soil only, in the pot. If you use
plastic tubs, be sure they have good drainage holes in the bottom. Drill them yourself into
plastic tubs. I drill ½ " holes, evenly spaced, about 6 or 8 of
them. Do not set a water-catching tray beneath the pot; this
will drown the roots and your plants will die.
Dig your planting hole about
8" to 10” deep, depending on the height of the seedling, right in the
center of the soil, just so, and place about 4 TBSP of the granulated
organic vegetable fertilizer in the hole and mix it around really
well in the center of the soil, to a width and depth of
about 10" until it blends with the soil.
(Refer to label directions for the proper amount.) The natural
fertilizers won't burn the roots of your seedlings and will continue
to release gradually throughout the season.
Get ready to plant. Remove the
bottom 1/2 to 2/3 of the branches and leaves from each plant, just
snip them off. New roots will grow all along that stem
and make the plant healthier with more fruit, better fruit. Remove
any blossoms for 10-14 days if you have time in your season; the
plant’s strength should go to the root system now. After that, let
the blossoms grow. (If your season is extremely short, leave the
sure the seedling’s root ball is moist. I always dip the root ball
into some diluted Great Big Plants Liquid Compost for early boost of growing
energy. They love it! Plant it deeply, burying the
stem so that only the remaining top foliage is above the soil line.
Gather the soil around the stem and press the plant in firmly but very gently,
just enough to get adequate soil-root contact without compacting the
it in well, making sure the foliage stays dry; wet foliage is the
major cause of fungal diseases. The only time its okay to get the
foliage damp is when you feed by foliar spraying or spray off aphids
or whiteflies with a sharp shot of water in the daytime so the sun
will dry your plants quickly.
Place the tomato cage into the pot,
over the plant, pushing the tines down as deep as possible, watch
out for the seedling! Now push your 5 ft. stakes down into the pot
right at the inside edges of the cages, opposite each other, to
anchor the cage. Most of these plants will get big. Seriously. Tie
the stakes to the cage with twine or strips of cloth.
Spread a 2-3 inch layer of mulch
over the soil; this will conserve moisture, and help keep water from
splashing onto the foliage; the major cause of fungal diseases.
Be sure the mulch is 4 or 5" away from the stem!
Don't want to smother the stem.
Once every week, before watering,
brush back the mulch, scatter about 2 tablespoons of organic
granular fertilizer evenly onto the
soil, one tablespoon for containers smaller then 18 gallons, scratch
it in and water it in. Replace the mulch but keep it away from the
Every 2 weeks, feed with the Neptune's Harvest and Great Big
Plants according to package directions.
of tomato plant problems are caused by over-watering so don't not
let the soil stay soggy, it will suffocate the roots. Let it start
to dry out before you water.
Okay, folks, here's where
your moisture meter comes in! BEFORE you water, check moisture
level (down deep) with your meter. If it
says moist or wet, do not water or the blossoms will drop off. Too
much water can damage or kill your
plant. The foliage will turn yellow, and curl up and drop off. Water
when it reads 3-4 or just into the 'moist' zone.
Resist the temptation to water just
because the surface looks dry. Check with your meter. However, if you live in a very hot
zone where temperatures reach into the 90's+ for an extended period,
be sure to check moisture every 2 days or so, as the sun can dry up the soil right
through the sides of the pot, especially in terra cotta, metal, or
uncoated ceramic. With Smart Pots, the heat is not a problem--they
keep the soil aerated and cool.
plants start setting blossoms the lowest foliage will begin turn
yellow and may drop off; this is good. It means the fruit is getting ready to form.
BioSafe, my favorite. Available for 2015
Tomato plants foliage diseases can be controlled
but not completely eliminated. It helps to remember that
tomato plants are not meant to be ornamental, but to produce
beautiful fruit for you, and that foliage disease is present in
everyone's tomato patch, no matter who or where. Some
diseases lie dormant in the soil and certain weather patterns
can trigger an outbreak.
My favorite way to help
control foliage disease or insect problems is to spray preventively with Neem
oil for insects and BioSafe Disease Control Spray for pathogens. Great stuff. I
love them. Follow package directions! Neem eliminates aphids,
whitefly and mites and helps prevent fungal disease like mildew
and early blight by setting up a substantial physical barrier. Biosafe Disease Control is
fabulous for cleaning your soli and plants of pathogens like
fungus, bacteria and viruses. I use them regularly with great success. Organic, safe, effective.
is my go-to organic sprays for disease control.
We will have it for 2015.
To discourage foliage disease, don't
splash water on your tomato plants, keep your garden clean and eliminate
perimeter weeds where disease spores can over-winter. After the season,
pull and discard your plants in the trash--do not compost tomato
plants--they harbor disease spores.
I sincerely believe
that the more foliage you have, the more photosynthesis,
respiration and transpiration you have, thus more tomato growing
power, so I don’t prune. If you need to increase airflow to your
plants to help reduce foliage disease, then moderate pruning of
the 10" or so at the bottom of the plant at soil level is a good
if you want to prune, go ahead.
mellow, smooth and buttery with a tiny touch of grass, this superb
quality, award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil was created for me by
my friend and fellow heirloom tomato fan, Kevin
Tazelaar, Founder of California Gold Olive Oil Co. in
Kevin presented some of his oil blends for
me and my employees to try in a blind taste test. It
was unanimous. each one of us picked the same
sample; Kevin bottled it and named it Laurel's Blend.
are very exited to present it this season to go along
with your heirloom tomato harvest.
welcome and delicious holiday gift!
Each 8 ounce bottle is $10.00. To order, please
include with your plant order.
SOLD OUT FOR 2015
Want to make
you favorite gardener really happy?
Gift Certificates, click here:
you have any questions about your plants, or need more information, I am here to
help; please don't hesitate to email
or call me.
need more tomatoes.” ~
All material contained herein is copyrighted, 2000-2015 and is the sole property
of Laurel’s Heirloom Tomato Plants or of Gary Ibsen/Tomatofest.com