Friday, May 3, 2013

I planted my tomatoes today -- oh yes, I did!

While the weather has been unsettled in other parts of the country, the last several days have been just BEAUTIFUL in and around Philadelphia!  Daytime temps are in the mid- to upper-60's, with lots of sunshine.  I've also been watching the overnight low temperatures, and I believe we're past the last chance for frost in this area.  So...I decided to plant my tomatoes today!

Yes, I'm a week early (Mother's Day is usually when gardeners in this area get digging), but there were two reasons I needed to get them into the soil:  
1)  the plants I ordered were delivered last week, and a few of the leaves were starting to turn yellow; and
2)  the earlier I plant, the earlier I harvest!

I read about grafted tomato plants and found them through the  Burpee Catalog Company.   ( .  They take a sturdy tomato plant that is disease resistant and graft an heirloom tomato onto the stem.  The upper part of the plant -- the leaves and fruit -- are heirloom varieties, which taste delicious.  For my husband, I bought a Mortgage Lifter Heirloom, which produces huge, 16 to 24 ounce tomatoes -- the kind where one slice covers a piece of bread.  I also bought a Rutgers and a Yellow Pear tomato, which is a small, cherry-like variety.  

A few years ago, I discovered the book "The Square Foot Garden" by Mel Bartholomew.  He has a new edition out, which is available on Amazon.

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The idea is to subdivide your garden (mine is about 7' by 10') into one square foot plots, and plant your seeds or plants according to how much space each needs to grow.  Instead of planting a row of radishes for instance, and thinning them once they have sprouted, I make little holes, four inches apart, and plant just one seed in each hole.  When I harvest them later in the spring, I can re-plant radishes, or plant another vegetable in that one square foot plot. Mel is also a proponent of setting up a sturdy trellis for plants that grow up, like tomatoes.

Years ago, when we moved into this house, I found an old iron clothing rack behind the garage.  My d.h. rigged it up with wire fencing, and I use it in the garden as a trellis for the tomato plants.  As the tomatoes grow, I tie them up to the trellis with strips of plastic bags or fabric.

Following Mel's guidelines, I plant the tomatoes about 2 feet apart.  The red half-circles are something my husband found a few years ago...they are for slow watering.  You fill the plastic dish with water, and it seeps out through a few holes in the bottom of the dish.

In the background, you may be able to see my garlic plants...I planted them last fall, and they should be ready to harvest around July 1st.  I'm hoping to put in some green beans, radishes and at least one variety of basil in the next few weeks.

With any luck, I'll have fresh, home-grown tomatoes by the Fourth of July!

Happy planting!
While I was working, Lance decided a nap in the sun was in order!

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