GrowCookEat: Tips for Tomato Success {guest post}

I’m in Utah at Evo Conference right now, so today I have a great gardening guest post from Katie Kimball to share with you! I love Katie’s method for watering tomatoes, that is definitely something I am going to try next year.

Katie Kimball blogs at Kitchen Stewardship, where she gives baby steps to balancing God’s gifts of your family’s health, the earth, your time and budget with weekly Monday Missions. Her first eBook, Healthy Snacks to Go, was published in April, and she and her Michigander kids are testing natural sunscreens this summer for a big review in July. You’ll also find an organic gardening series running this summer at KS from Rene of Budget Saving Mom.

Tips for Tomato Success
by Katie Kimball

I’m a hopeless perfectionist. Know the type?

When I attempt something new, I have to read everything I can get my hands on, over-research the topic to death, and take copious notes. My first year trying my hand at vegetable gardening was a humbling experience, because it turns out the bugs and woodland creatures didn’t really read the same books I did. The deer got my beans, something bright green ate all my broccoli seedlings, and my peppers didn’t seem to know how to grow more than one per plant. I had enough fresh cucumbers to keep me happy and a handful of peas for a novelty for the kids, but I still spent a lot of time at the Farmer’s Market.

tomato planting

My work paid off with tomatoes, though. I kid you not, my five tomato plants were each taller and much wider than me! Diving in to get a ripe one was like fighting my way through the jungle, but without a machete. I started the plants off right and tended them carefully all season. Here are my best tomato tips for your summer vegetable (or is it a fruit?) endeavors:

The 8 Things I put in my Tomato Plant Holes (Other than the Tomato Plant) for Awesome Yield:

  1. banana peel
  2. fish head/bones/schtuff
  3. composted manure
  4. Epsom salts*
  5. baking soda*
  6. nonfat dry milk*
  7. 1 tsp. sugar
  8. ¼ cup Espoma GardenTome organic fertilizer

Watching me plant tomatoes with all these things gathered around me is bit like observing me in the kitchen trying a new recipe. It’s a little crazy, but it works!

*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.

photo credit

3 More Tips for Tomato Planting Success

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)

The Ultimate Watering Method

A tip from my mom: bury a plastic jug with holes poked in the bottom and around the sides next to each tomato plant. Since tomatoes don’t like getting their leaves wet, this is an idea way to avoid that problem and get water directly to the roots. Fruiting tomatoes can need up to a gallon of water per day, so don’t worry about overwatering them! Just squirt your hose directly into the jug and know you’re taking care of your babies well.

I’m hoping for great tomatoes again this year after a new baby and a new blog halted my gardening the last two years. How about you?

Are you planting tomatoes this year, either in a traditional garden, among your flowers, or in pots on your porch? What is your best tomato tip?


What’s going on in your garden this week? Have you made any great recipes with your fresh produce or planted something new? I’d love to hear about it!

GrowCookEat Announcement: I am currently accepting Garden Tour guest posts from readers. If you are interested in giving us a virtual tour of your garden through photos, slideshow, or video please email me at goodlife.eats[at}yahoo[dot]com for more information. Thanks!

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