Tomato Matters

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My method for growing tomatoes from seed

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in gardening, tomatoes galore | 0 comments

Even after all these years in the garden I am awestruck that a tiny seed, not even ¼ inch long, can not only grow into an eight foot tall plant, but also provide us with something so incredibly delicious and healthy to eat!

Growing anything from seed is a magical experience. Growing tomatoes from seed provides the magic and allows you to grow some special varieties that you won’t find at most nurseries or seedling sales (there’s no way they can have them all)!

To start tomatoes from seed you need to have seeds, growing medium, light, a warm place for the seeds to grow, water and some plastic bags.

The growing medium for seed should not be garden soil or potting soil. Don’t use anything that has fertilizer in it. I use a mixture of equal parts peat, perlite and vermiculite. These ingredients are all easily found at the local nursery.

The growing medium needs to be kept consistently warm, about 85 degrees. It needs to remain moist but not soggy. Once I plant the seeds ¼ inch into the medium I cover the seedling trays loosely with plastic but do not tie or close the bags. They should not be airtight.

When the seedlings emerge I introduce light. Keep the light about 4 inches from the tiny leaves. Fertilizing begins when the second set of leaves, called true leaves appear. In about 30 days the seedlings will be ready to moved to larger containers.

Before planting outdoors you want to harden off the seedlings, exposing them to increasing amounts of sun and wind.

Seedlings can be transplanted into the ground once the soil temperature is consistently about 55 degrees and daytime air temperatures remain between 70 – 75 degrees.

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Things I Learned in the Tomato Garden

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 in gardening, homepage, tomatoes galore, Uncategorized | 0 comments

For most people growing tomatoes isn’t a full-time job. Growing 150 tomatoes, though, takes a whole different level of commitment. For many years I was basically at home so filling my days with tomato and garden tasks became my life.

Then, I went to work. I mean a job that not only takes me away from home but where I travel all over the country two to three weekends a month.

Not wanting to give up my tomato obsession I decided that I would have to be very organized about caring for the gardens and would definitely need some help. I scheduled my teaching trips around the typical dates and biggest periods of harvest.

Lesson #1 – there is no such thing as typical and there are no weather patterns that can be counted on. My first harvest came late and, of course the majority of the big tomatoes seemed to be ready to pick right when I was boarding a plane.

This year, I grew 125 tomato plants instead of my usual 150. I harvested almost as many tomatoes as I did in years past.

Note to self: 125 plants require as much work as 150, so don’t think you’ll be saving time.

Lesson #2 – the key is to plant the right tomato varieties. Plant those tomatoes that you will use. And, plant the varieties that are usually good producers. I had a couple of plants that gave me some really delicious fruit, but is it really worth it to grow a plant for 5 delicious tomatoes?

I am always a sucker for the different cherry varieties. They’re all so cute, they sound so good and you can just pop them in your mouth for a snack when you’re out in the garden. Sounds really good until you need to pick all of those cherry tomatoes. Now, THAT takes time!

Now, about help…I have some great helpers in the garden. Even so, things didn’t always get done the way I might have done them.

Lesson #3 – Yeah, yeah, if you want something done right, do it yourself. And then you’ll still make mistakes. Things will go wrong. Make that part of the process and it doesn’t have to be so painful.

Lesson #4 – And this is the really important one – gardening and growing tomatoes is a really fun way to make the most of the magic of nature. Sure, we can take care to maintain healthy soil, water properly and keep the bad stuff down to a minimum. Don’t let it become such a chore or so stressful that it diminishes your pleasure. Enjoy it for what it is.

The fact is, there is only so much that a person can do to grow a great crop of tomatoes and then the rest is up to, you guessed it, nature.

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Rough Weather Got You Worried About Your Tomato Garden This Year?

Posted by on Mar 4, 2014 in classes, News and Events, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Don’t despair – Knowing how to prepare your soil and water effectively will allow your tomato garden to flourish this summer!

It’s been a tough winter across the country…Some are enduring one polar vortex after another and here on the west coast, with almost no snow to speak of, we’re wondering how we’re going to be able to garden at all without any water.

It’s sad to think that we may have to amend our gardening plans and possibly not enjoy that activity that brings us so much pleasure, not to mention really tasty gifts from the garden this summer!

Don’t despair, though. Knowing how to water your tomatoes and how to make your soil work for you will allow you to grow a great crop this year!

Whether you’re a tomato novice or a seasoned grower in the Southern California area,  you’ll want to learn how to grow in this unique growing climate. That’s why we’re offering our garden tour and TOMATO ‘SSENTIALS class at a reduced price this year. We want you to be successful in the garden, not just wishing you could be! The class will be held on Sunday, March 16, in the Tomato Matters Garden. In this class you’ll learn Six “Ssential” Steps for Tomato Success, yes, the ‘Ssentials for growing great tomatoes!

There’s lots of new information so the class is perfect for the first time grower as well as those experienced gardeners who need a refresher or to be updated. You’ll go home with a complete handout and a tomato plant to get your garden started.

Best of all, we’ve lowered the price of the class so more people can participate. Even more great tomato information at a better price. You don’t want to miss it!

For time, price and to reserve your spot for this fun morning in the garden, click here.  See you in the garden!

Tomato Growing Essentials

 

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How to set up and care for tomato beds

Posted by on Feb 4, 2014 in classes | 0 comments

Visit Tomato Matters’ Gardens and learn just how to set up and care for tomato beds.


Laura will answer your questions and present her Secrets to Tomato Success.  She’ll talk about favorite tomato varieties, where to plant, containers and growing in the ground, sun and soil requirements, how to water and feed and what to do about those awful tomato worms!

Come learn Laura Taylor’s Six Ssential Steps to Tomato Successso you can grow a bounty of tomatoes in your garden.  In this workshop you’ll  have the opportunity to start seedling trays of some tasty herbs to grow along with your tomatoes.

The fee for this workshop is $25. A printed handout and all of your seed starting supplies are included.


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Spider Mites…ugh!

Posted by on Dec 4, 2013 in gardening, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Spider Mites 002Spider Mites – Common yet mighty pests in the garden.

 

Spider Mites feed on just about anything…fruit trees, vines, ornamental plants and vegetables.  There are various types and colorings of Spider Mites, but what you really need to know is that they are undesirable in the garden and no matter the type of Mite, their damage is similar as are the steps you can take to control them.

 

Spider Mites are difficult to see without magnification.  They’re tiny. But, they live in colonies, sometimes made up of hundreds of Mites and that’s what you’ll see when there’s an infestation.  They tend to colonize on the underside of leaves so it’s often the telltale webbing that you’ll discover first.

 

In cold areas, Spider Mites overwinter in layers of tree bark or in piles of garden droppings and trash. In warmer areas, where plants remain green (Southern California gardeners take note) they can feed and reproduce throughout the year.  Either way, when the weather is warm, Spider Mites lay their eggs.  It doesn’t take long for the next generation to appear.

 

Spider Mites prefer dry, dusty conditions. You’ll often see them first along the outer edges of the garden or on plants that are water stressed.   Their damage is first visible as stippling on the leaves. Affected leaves will eventually yellow, red or brown and fall off.  You’ll see webbing over areas of leaves, often at the tips of branches.  They not only cause leaf damage but can also cause direct damage to the fruit or vegetable pods.

 

If you suspect a Spider Mite infestation the first action to take is to confirm it.  Shake an affected leaf over a piece of white paper.  When mites are present they move quickly.  Only think about treating when the mites are present.  In minor occurrences of Spider Mites insecticidal soaps or oils or even sprays of water may keep them under control.  Please heed this warning:  There are many sprays on the market said to control Spider Mites.  These should only be used as a last resort as they are not only often ineffective, but they target the natural predators of Spider Mites as well as the Mites themselves. This, in fact, then allows Spider Mite reproduction to increase.

 

Spider Mites 001The best ways to manage Spider Mites are with biological and cultural controls.  Adding natural predators to the garden is the most effective way to control Spider Mites and most other pests.  The predatory insects are available for purchase and release at many garden shops or online.  They are easy to use and highly effective in maintaining control of harmful insects.

 

In terms of cultural controls try to keep plants from being water stressed.  That can be difficult for tomato growers since they should be kept on the slightly dry side.  If you can keep surrounding areas moist and dust free it will help.  Water down the pathways now and then.  Be sure to keep garden areas tidy and rubbish free.  This is helpful in controlling all sorts of things you would rather not have taking up residence in your garden.

 

Whether you’re growing a Fall garden or just looking ahead to Spring, it’s worth it to take the time now to be sure the garden is neat and tidy.  It’s one simple step you can take that will help prevent future problems.

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