Last year, my tomato plants were a total flop. Stunted growth and a few green tomatoes was all that I got. I guess the weather never really got warm enough for those heat-loving plants.
This year, I hope it is going to be a different story. I have a game plan in place starting with larger starts, season extenders, drip irrigation and timely doses of organic fertilizer. I am going to ‘baby’ my tomatoes. I have chosen to plant cherry tomatoes this year, simply because they are incredibly prolific, they ripen earlier in the season and are more tolerant of weather fluctuations. And of course, I am just longing to eat one, plucked right from the vine.
I bought a hybrid variety – Sweet 100 and an heirloom variety – Yellow Pear from Top Foods in Woodinville. Both were fairly large starts in a 1 gallon container. Before planting, I amended the soil in my raised bed with organic compost. Next, I pinched off the leaves and flowers from the lower part of the plant, 3 inches from base.
Planting a tomato start on its side has certain advantages. The stem that is buried will sprout roots and create a stronger root structure that absorbs more nutrients. So, I created a shallow trench, laid the plant on its side and buried the stem along with the roots. I ran the water hose on low pressure and soaked the soil well. This weekend I plan to setup drip irrigation in my raised bed.
Season extenders are a very important part of edible gardening in the Pacific Northwest. Our spring and summers are quite mild, to put it mildly! The nighttime temperatures are still below 60 F which is a big no-no with tomatoes. They like their feet warm, consistently.
So, I built a cloche around the Yellow Pear, with some flexible PVC and plastic sheeting. For Sweet 100, I tried out something new – Season Starter Plant Protector that I bought from McLendon Hardware. It is a wall of plastic tubes filled with water, set around the plant. It acts as a heat sink, absorbing heat during day and releasing it at night.
Interesting product! I am very curious to see how these season extenders benefit my tomato plants. Next week, I shall fertilize them with some organic fish fertilizer and bone meal. Consistent watering at the roots while avoiding the foliage will keep the plants healthy. Meanwhile, I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for a bountiful harvest.