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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tips for Tomato Success

A nice, fresh, home-grown tomato. Brings a smile to your face and makes your mouth water, doesn't it?

Here are a few tips for successfully growing tomatoes, so you can enjoy some of your very own home-grown ones this year!

~ Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family, like tobacco

~ Aphids are a pest that will suck the life right out of your tomato plants. Ants like to eat the "honeydew" that is produced by the aphids, so they will actually over-winter aphid eggs and then give them rides to the host plant in the spring! If you see ants around your garden, you probably have aphids as well. You can treat this naturally by using predator pests: lacewings, ladybugs, hover flies and praying mantis all like to eat aphids. Some companion planting will also help: anise, chives, coriander, garlic, onions, petunia, radish, and nasturtium will all act to either trap or repel aphids. Diatomaceous earth is also deadly to aphids and ants will usually not cross it.

~ Cornmeal sprinkled around your tomato plants will help control tomato hornworm. These worms (and ants, by the way) will eat the cornmeal and since they cannot digest it, they will swell up and explode.

~ If slugs are a problem, you can use diatomaceous earth around your plants to keep them at bay. You'll need to replace the diatomaceous earth after watering or rainfall. Epsom salts also deter slugs and is good for your tomatoes.

~ If you notice yellowing and wilting on the leaves of your tomato plants, you probably have blight. Blight lives in the soil and rain water can cause it to splash onto the plants. Most people recommend trimming the leaves of your plants up to a foot off the ground to keep blight from getting on them and spreading. You should also keep your tomato plants well mulched, as this helps make a physical barrier between the soil and the plant.

~ A home remedy for blight is Epsom salt and non-fat powdered milk. My grandmother always put about 1/4 cup of Epsom salt and a good shake of powdered milk, along with her fertilizer, into each hole before planting her tomatoes. She would then mix it around in the dirt and put in her plants. She would also then sprinkle a little powdered milk on the top of the soil once the plant was in place and lightly mix it in to the dirt. You can repeat this during the growing season. We use this method with our tomatoes and have good results.

~ If you notice dark black blotches appearing on the bottoms of your fruit before it can ripen, you probably have blossom end rot. This usually happens because the plant has not had consistent moisture. Be sure to use mulch to help retain moisture and in periods of very hot weather, be sure to water the plants more deeply and more often.

~ Another good thing about Epsom salts is that it contains magnesium and tomatoes like magnesium. You can put a Tablespoon of Epsom salts into a gallon of water and use as a foliage spray as your plants begin to flower.

~ If you are going to stake your tomatoes, do this at the same time when you plant them. If you wait until the plant is large to do your staking, you stand a good chance of damaging the roots and possibly killing your plant.

~ Small strips of pantyhose are a great way to tie your tomato stalks to the stakes, as the pantyhose are soft and gentle to the plant stalk.

~ To allow your tomato plants to get a good start before setting fruit, remove the initial blossoms that appear so the plant will work to set good firm roots first.

~ You can succession plant your tomatoes if you snip off the little "sucker" tomato plants that sprout between your established branches. You can put these in a little water until they root, then put them in small pots to get established before returning them to your garden plot. This will help extend the growing season of your tomatoes.

~ You can try growing your tomatoes this way: Hanging Tomatoes or Upside Down Tomatoes

Happy Growing!

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Tennessee Preppers Network Est. Jan 17, 2009 All contributed articles owned and protected by their respective authors and protected by their copyright. Tennessee Preppers Network is a trademark protected by American Preppers Network Inc. All rights reserved. No content or articles may be reproduced without explicit written permission.