I’m no master gardener, but I am a perfectionist and rather thorough when I decide to tackle a project. Three years ago, my new thing was vegetable gardening. As a result of all my reading, watching me plant a tomato is almost like watching me make a complicated recipe in my kitchen.
The 8 Things I put in my Tomato Plant Holes (Other than the Tomato Plant) for Awesome Yield:
- banana peel
- fish head/bones/schtuff
- composted manure
- Epsom salts*
- baking soda*
- nonfat dry milk*
- 1 tsp. sugar
- ¼ cup Espoma GardenTome organic fertilizer
*Recipe for tomato blight buster: Mix 3 cups compost, 1/2 cup powdered nonfat milk, 1/2 cup Epsom salts, 1 Tbs. baking soda. Sprinkle a handful into each planting hole, and put some powdered milk on the soil every few weeks throughout the growing season.
Our contributor Haley has an awesome post on the many varieties of tomatoes available for planting, plus a simple tomato and mint salad recipe!
Most of my homemade gardening solutions and tips are from Jerry Baker’s Terrific Garden Tonics that I checked out of the library three years ago when I decided I wanted to garden, copied what I needed and took back. I also grabbed some of his many other books, but I can’t recall which ones. My gardening tub in the garage is full of all sorts of weird stuff as a result, from tea bags and mouthwash to cheap beer and tobacco (I felt the need to explain to the cashier that this purchase was for my garden!).
My Grandpa’s Tomato Planting Tip
This is the most brilliant way to water tomatoes in the world. Tomatoes don’t really appreciate their leaves getting wet, so watering at the base is important. Go one step further and bury a plastic jug, like a milk jug, next to each plant. Before burying, use scissors or a kitchen knife to puncture holes in it on the bottom and sides. Fill the jug with water with your hose, and it goes right to the roots of the plant, feeding it well all summer long.
At the end of the season, you can easily string up the jugs and cutworm collars and hang them in your garage until next year.
3 More Tips for Tomato Planting Success
- Dig a deep hole. You want only the top leaves of the tomato to be sticking out. You will feel like an idiot burying all those beautiful green leaves on the bottom of your plant, especially if you worked hard to grow them yourself. It’s important, though, because the plant will grow roots from the entire stem, making its gripping system stronger and feeding system able to consume more nutrients from the soil.
- Lay the tomato plant sideways in the hole so that the stem goes along the ground, It has the opportunity to put roots down the whole way.
- Use a cutworm collar. Cut the bottom out of a plastic food container like cottage cheese or sour cream, and place it down into the dirt around your plant’s stem. The top should crest the surface by a half inch at least. Cutworms can only travel on the surface of the dirt, so they can’t get near the plant’s stem with this barrier. (see photo above)
In case I’ve done such a good job of talking up my brown thumb that you might not want tomato tips from me, they are the one thing I was absolutely successful with. Three years ago, my five plants grew nearly as big as me and twice as wide, and I had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with (having only learned to can last summer)!