Thank you for following the progress of the garden here in my back yard, I’m honored that people are interested. Hopefully there is useful information in these posts. I will be adding some videos this week about the tasks around the garden and how I am doing things this year.

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It was March 4 that I first sowed my tomato seeds and sprouted my plants. It was, actually, my second attempt. I cooked my first batch that started in February because I had my grow lights too close. I’ve done that more times than I wish to admit. But March 4, that was when the garden got going in earnest. It has been 35 days and I now have my first plants in the ground and several plants in containers. This is one of my favorite times because things are taking shape and there are no big problems yet.

Below, I have set out the selected plants for planting:

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Soil Amendments

About the beds. I reclaimed this first of my three beds from being weed bound for the past two seasons. That process will continue through the growing season as the mulch layer that will be added continues to suppress the nut grass. Under the weeds, I had pretty nice soil, though with all that weed growth, it was likely fairly nutritionally bleak dirt. There were some pretty fat and healthy earthworms in the soil, so at least we had that going for us. But the soil needed improving I added 20 gallons of home made compost to my tomato beds, hoping that would go a long way toward improving the health. I am not sure that will be enough. More compost will added as I get it.

In my tomato raised beds I have added some organic garden lime. I used what roughly amounts to 2 tablespoons per plant, less than what is really suggested. I just walked along the bed scooping the garden lime and tossing two scoops where my plants would be, then raked the whole bed level to incorporate the lime into the soil. The reason for this is to avoid blossom end rot. I have had some cases of this annoying condition in the past, especially with my Roma plants. The end of the tomato rots away and pretty much ruins the entire crop. It is caused by a lack of calcium, along with other nutrient and water imbalances. The product I used was a dolomitic lime, which is mostly composed of of calcium and magnesium. Good tomato crops that are healthy and strong require these two minor nutrients. It also raises the acidity of the soil slightly. My hope is that this measure will keep my soil healthy through the season and that all I will need to do is side dress with compost and fertilize with fish emulsion.

There is some controversy about dolomite. It has a higher concentration of magnesium than is really healthy for a balanced soil. That’s why I did not go crazy with the stuff as I have seen some gardeners do on YouTube. If the soil is being kept healthy with good compost and organic matter over the years, its shouldn’t really need additions of the minor nutrients. The only reason I added the dolomitic lime was that I did actually see blossom end rot occur and know this soil was deficient in calcium. By the way, this is one reason to compost your egg shells. They are a wonderful source of calcium.

Plants In the Ground

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I have planted nine Martino’s Romas, nine regular Romas (I’d like to see the difference) and nine Old Italian plants. That left me with many to give away, so I took 16 to church and they will be re-homed in various gardens and plots around the region. I have several other varieties awaiting a spot in bed two and in some containers.

My plants are spaced about 18 to 22 inches apart in my beds, just shy of double what you would do in square foot gardening for some of my plants. This spacing is tighter than many gardeners prefer, but it works just fine for me with regular composting, pruning and organic fertilizers. I actually like to tend the garden, its enjoyable to prune and care for the plants, so being close together gives me this opportunity since they will need to be opened up for light to penetrate the jungle mass.

This arrangement will allow me to support the plants without cages, for those that need support. I will use either cane on posts like I have in the past, or wire strung between posts. I have not decided. Roma types being determinate varieties and generally bushy, I should not have to stake very much. I am not sure about Old Italian, I’ll watch it and we’ll see how it grown, whether with vines and runners, or generally bushy.

I also potted a few other plants in buckets, and will continue planting buckets as the week goes on. I will post a video of how I do potted tomatoes this week. Container tomatoes have special requirements for a successful plant in this hot area.

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Observations about Styrofoam Cups

In all my previous years, I used peat pots to get my seedlings from the seed starting trays to a point where they could be planted.This year, having been disappointed with the peat pots, I tried cups. The problems I observed with the peat pot were many. The idea is that you raise your plant in the pot, then plant it directly in the ground. The roots grow through the peat and the peat becomes a permanent organic part of the soil. In my experience, the peat pot still forms a barrier to root growth while they are out of the ground, and the roots tend to get much more balled up and dense because peat pots are small. I also noticed when pulling up plants at the end of the year, the pot is often still there, and the roots grew over the pot or through the hole in the bottom, but almost never through the peat pot wall. This is an obstacle to growth and I believe it is not optimal. I began breaking up the peat pots when transplanting planting several years ago, but it occurred to me why bother using these too-small pots at all?

The benefit of a cup is more room and no growth barriers in the ground. People use styrofoam, plastic party cups, cottage cheese and yogurt containers – anything of the sort. I like the styrofoam cup because the pack nicely in my plastic trays that I use for carting them around. They are cheap, and I can re-use them. They last quite a while before breaking down. Punch several holes in the bottom and you are set.

I also like the healthy root network that comes from using a larger, deeper planting cup. Look how healthy the root system is on this Martino’s Roma. That is far nicer than what I was getting out of peat pots.

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So there’s week five in the history books, and I’m very pleased.

I will also finish dealing with the weeds in my two remaining beds and get them planted. I plan to do a video this week about how I am potting tomatoes this year with an eye to making it through the summer. We’re running out of time to get corn this year from seed, so I hope to have them in the ground soon too.

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