Written by the MGNV Organic Vegetable Demonstration Garden Master Gardeners, with special thanks to Debbie Siegel and Tom Laughlin.
Five Things About Growing Tomatoes
Are you growing tomatoes this year? Here are five things you should know about getting the best tomato crop this year.
1) Don’t plant tomatoes too early! This year’s changeable spring weather seems to be finally settling into a warming trend, but at the Master Gardeners’ Organic Vegetable demonstration garden, tomato seedlings won’t go into the ground until at least the second week of May.
2) Prepare the soil now. If the soil is sufficiently dry, turn it and break it up this week.
3) Rotate. Keep in mind the particular importance of plant rotation to avoid pests and diseases that may otherwise develop in the soil. Tomatoes grow well in areas where legumes (peas or beans) grew the previous year. At the Organic Vegetable demonstration garden, this year’s tomato beds will be by the back fence and on the left side (come see)!
4) Feed well! The lower bed at the demonstration garden has benefited from a cover crop of winter rye, which was planted in the fall to recycle nutrients that would otherwise be lost to winter leaching. We turned the rye under five weeks before planting. We will also add nitrogen to the soil with an application of blood meal, scratched into the surface.
5) Varieties of tomatoes that we’ll be planting this year include Homestead 24, an organic, semi-determinate variety developed for hot, humid regions. It will set fruit at high temperatures. Also, we are trying Black Krim Organic, a Russian heirloom, which is deep red with brown/green shoulders. The black color is good camouflage from creatures seeking bright fruit. Another variety is Jasper, an indeterminate red cherry tomato, resistant to late blight.
Note: The Organic Vegetable Garden, developed and maintained by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, is located at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, 2845 Marcey Road, in Arlington. Come visit!