Tomato Complexity

When Did It Get So Hard..

…just to grow a Tomato? Most of the time in your life, you wanted either just a nice slicer, or a bushel of canning Tomatoes, and we knew what to grow. Hybrid vs Heirloom, Indeterminate vs Determinate, was about all there was. Bit since the long adjusted hybridizing of this great Summer treat, now there are letters on the tags with some secret code.

So, I have the breakdown of the letter codes here for you.

V – Verticillium Wilt
F – Fusarium Wilt
FF – Fusarium, Races 1 & 2
N – Nematodes
T – Tobacco Mosaic Virus
A – Alternaria Stem Canker
St – Stemphylium Gray Leaf Spot

Normally, I wouldn’t care about these codes, I pick what variety I want, and plant, but I have already gardened my soil, and know what to look out for during the growing seasons, issues. But I have had several asking about these mysterious letters, so here they are.

Somewhere in my life I have read a few articles about the chemical processes in any one Tomato plant, it’s like 428 at any given time, and if one, or a combination of a select few, are interrupted, the plant starts over, for example, Blossom End Rot. I know it’s been too wet, a couple of yellow leaves at the bottom in late April, and I add 1/3 cup of whole milk to the root base, one time. Calcium has dropped out, the plant is confused, so this believe it or not, corrects it. Old school…. So I guess the lettered codes have some meaning to folks that had plants die last year, from one or more of these diseases, and they will pick from the codes? But, in most cases, the disease is still in the soil, and the “Hybrid” plant will process the disease, in one part? Hybrid is 2 or more plants crossed into one? So will it happen?

I just want a Tomato.

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Companion Planting and other Garden Things

 

Companion Planting. Does it Work?
Digging through the charts I have found very few dissimilar yes and no’s in the Companion Planting realm. I know I do a few, not all, but the success is there. I have even planted against the recommendations a few times just to see. Failure of the plant was the outcome. So as you are going into the beds, or even in them, you should try to seek out some of these charts. If you are in, simply inter-plant some things, and if you are planning to go in soon, act accordingly.
If you followed my Solarizing a Garden Bed” articles, and in Part II, you can now see it works. I have volunteers and weeds dying everywhere the plastic was. So why stop there? Just a few corrections in the bed, and you can achieve less bugs, fungus, and some prolific growth on most of your veggies. Companion Planting has been around as long as we have gardened, well, shortly after anyway, because attention was there, as to what did and didn’t do well. Look up 3 Sisters Gardening for an example, or, read the ingredients on any jar of spaghetti sauce, and plant those Herbs near your Tomatoes, even in pots near them. Someone knew what went great with them?
Not only Companion Planting, Solarizing, and composting but also, as we creep into this season, don’t forget to add some whole milk to the Tomatoes, helps with the Blossom End Rot because of the rains. Just a little timing on these matters will help you through the growing season. Do the milk now if you are in, or add it as you plant them. 1/3 cup to each plant. No feeding for 3 weeks after the milk, no Nitrogen. Then you can, but please don’t buy your fertilizer by what is on the picture on the label. Read the NPK analysis. Close to even across the numbers is best. 18-18-21 or 10-10-10 area is OK. But if you get an “all purpose” type, it will have too much Nitrogen, and you will have very nice green plants, hardly any bloom. I know if you are saving your eggshells, that’s calcium too, but it is a slow release. The whole milk is instant, and that is when you need the replacement, before the first blooms set. Yellow leaves at the bottom before the first blooms, yeah, it’s look out time!
So if you find these charts about Companion Planting, follow some of them, and if you keep a Garden Journal as I always suggest, you can compare your notes about who did and didn’t do well before. Who was too close to what, etc. You will see an improvement in your gardens, and produce picked. Some of the charts deal only with either insects, fungus issues, fruiting, inhibiting. But some have them all, so don’t get confused, just pick a plan. As always watch the weather, some of you may still have some frost coming, even hail storms. Keep some plastic handy and be able to cover, but water first, the wet soil will add humidity under the plastic and prevent frost from burning the leaves, or put a 5 gallon pail of water inside, that will help as well. Hail can be devastating to a garden. I always kept 3 gallon pots, or cut off the bottoms of milk jugs to place over the plants, that’s IF you know it is imminent hail coming. Place a bamboo stick or something similar through the hole in the container to help keep the pounding and wind from removing the container. Whew! Maybe these will help. Been there, done them.

I will be shifting from Go Daddy to Weebly soon, so if you don’t hear from me, Bing me, and find me. I will add my secondary email just in case. Kevinthegarden@gmail.com.

A Sweet Morning, and Blossom End Rot…

   Wow… If you didn’t get out this morning and appreciate this very sweet morning, then too bad. I did, and it was great sitting on my back porch with a cup of coffee.. Yeah, won’t be many more of these before the heat settles in. We are actually having a real Spring here in Richmond this year. Cool nights, warmish days, rainy days and more rainy days. Yep, here comes the dreaded Blossom End Rot (BER). Lots of moisture, cool nights, and then warm sunny days. Most folks see a slight yellowing on their Peppers, Tomatoes, and Egg Plant, so the first thing they do is throw the “All Purpose” MG fertilizer to them. I guess because there is a picture of a Tomato on the box with blooming flowers. Last thing they need is Nitrogen folks, read the NPK labels on the plant food before you buy. All this rain, and the calcium levels drop out in the soil, and now the plant cannot take up what it needs.. The one thing it doesn’t need is more (excessive) Nitrogen. I always tell folks to have their soil tested for anything planted, especially a vegetable garden. If when you tilled your garden in March, and you applied slow release lime, then you are probably OK. If not, here’s an old remedy that I know works. Add 1/3 cup of milk around the root base of your Tomatoes, now. You can’t stop BER after the fact.  Here in Richmond this year, you’re probably gonna have it. I have already “milked” my veggies. 3 Matches around my Peppers, and well, the Egg Plant will just have to get on with it. Other than that, everything else is coming up great.

  Let’s see, back to that NPK thing again. BER is a fungal condition that sets in, and has something to do with over Nitrogen feeding. Tall fescue has the same issues with improper feeding, rain, daylight hours, heat…. Those “Weed & Feed” jockey’s who feel the need to throw all that Nitrogen down now, well, the fungicides will be on the shelf very soon, feel free to pick up a bag or two, you’re gonna need it. All the milk in the fridge won’t help…. Ever notice that when a lawn starts getting a fungus, it’s either in a slight depression in the yard, or where there is some run-off. Same with Hardwood Mulch and that “Dog-Puke” fungus.. (Really, Google that and you will see it’s actually the name for it). That also occurs in mulch beds mostly applied in the late Winter or early Spring, when we get all this rain, and there is a slight depression in the mulched area. Looks like a Dog, well, “Puked” there. Nothing you can do about it, no way to treat it, and it does not affect your plants at all. Just happens. It’s just unsightly for a bit.

Yep. I am enjoying Spring this year. The Southern Oscillation is being good to us for a bit, except for the Tornadic outbreaks all of a sudden, which tells me that La Nina and El Nino are getting ready to switch back next yearish or so… We aren’t usually connected as a “Tornado Alley” city here in Richmond, but the storm fronts are pushing South East a bit. So be mindful of any storm for a bit, especially while we are going through these extreme temperature changes.

I will be posting more pics here soon at www.picasaweb.google.com/Kevinthegarden