Its been twelve weeks since I sowed seeds. Its a tomato jungle.

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My tomato plants have been very vigorous growers, but since I want to grow tomatoes instead of leaves, I’ve been pruning. I prune away branches and suckers that do not appear to be setting blossoms, and try to open up the dense growth. I remove yellow and diseased leaves, bug-eaten leaves and any stems and branches that touch the ground, unless they have fruit or blossoms. In that case I tie them up with plastic garden ribbon and bamboo poles. I still find it easier than other kinds of support measures, with the exception perhaps of a tomato cage. It would be several hundred dollars to buy tomato cages for all of my tomato plants, so we improvise.

I’ve come to the decision that next year I will not plant so densely. I made the decision (influenced by my square-foot gardening past) to plant tomatoes 3 across in my 4 foot wide beds. The middle row worked out OK last time I planted tomatoes in this manner, and will produce plenty of fruit this year, but there is just too much dense foliage. This mass of foliage makes it too difficult to work and prune the plants in the middle of the bed, and hard to open the middle areas to the sun. Lesson learned. I believe I can actually grow more fruit with fewer plants by better pruning and tending of the plants, and will have easier access to the soil for amending and side-dressing. Next year I will do two plants across the 4 foot width, and perhaps 14-16 plants in a row. That is still quite a bit of tomato plants, not including containers. Crop rotation will dictate that next year I will only have on long bed of tomatoes, since I’ve used two of the three beds this year. Looking ahead to next spring, I’ll grow some squash and cucumbers and beans, various crops I have not yet enjoyed.

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I have attempted to get the blossom end rot under control in my first bed. It has really only attacked my Martino Romas, and to a lesser degree, the Romas. The first flush of fruits seem mostly healthy, the second wave – a substantial set of fruit – is almost all a loss. I am hoping the third flush on the many blossoms that are present will be healthy. I have side dressed with Garden Lime which has a slow-release calcium content. I have also tried an experiment.

I have heard of people dissolving Calcium Carbonate in water and using that as a foliar spray. A water-soluble solution is immediately available to the plant, so that’s what I needed. I emptied a half a jug of Tums antacid (mostly Calcium Carbonate) into a jug of water until they were dissolved, and split that two gallon jug between my two tomato beds. I filled my two gallon watering can and poured on fourth of the Tums solution into the can, giving me four applications. I’m hoping it helps. I also side dressed with compost on my Martino Roma bed. I’ll report on the results.

Last night we had a windy thunderstorm. The water is welcomed and the rain with all of its trace-nutrients will perk up all the tomatoes, but rain is a soil culprit when talking about pre-existing calcium deficiencies. Rain can wash away any remedies or applications that gardeners add to the soil, especially the water-based solutions that are supposed to be quickly available to the plant. I hope the rain did not wash too much of my Tums bath away. We will see how it goes with my Calcium experiment.

The blustery wind also bent several heavy-laden tomato branches. I had to scrounge up some more bamboo poles and support these branches. Makes me feel important to the plant, heh.

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Micro-vineyard Update

The muscadine grapes are doing well. Two of the in-ground plants are growing like champs. The other two are growing but started from lower down on the dormant vine. They have yet to peek above the blue safety tube. I am confident that once they get strong, I can more carefully prune un-necessary growth to channel all energy to the main vine.

I began fertilizing today following the Ison’s Vineyard plan. They suggest at the first of the month to go with a quarter pound of basic 10-10-10 (I used 13-13-13) fertilizer, then on the 15th of each month go with a quarter pound of Calcium Nitrate. Repeat each month for each plant. Again, I am not concerned about using non-organic fertilizers here on some parts of my garden.

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I hope to have the two tallest vines up to the trellis wire by the end of this growing season, they are really taking off.

I have two “back up” vines still in pots. These were held in reserve in case one of my main plants failed to thrive. These plants are growing well. I will plant them elsewhere, probably to go wild in my son’s corner of the yard where they can use our Bradford Pears trees and his tree fort to climb on. I don’t like those trees anyway, at least they can serve some purpose.

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I’ve been trying to keep on top of watering on hot and sunny days. We are already in the 90s here, so attention to water in critical for the potted plants. So far, so good!

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I also finished potting the last of my second-wave tomatoes. I had a lot of varieties, mostly black tomatoes of one sort or another, that were left-over seeds from prior years. I was amazed some of the older ones sprouted, but they did. Taking the best of the sprouts, I up-potted around 25 of them to cups, and finally potted a dozen in 3 gallon cloth pots. I hope they survive the heat and set fruit, but I’m not holding my breath. Its worth a try.

I am delighted to have some bell peppers coming in, and lots of blossoms. I will transfer the healthiest of my potted peppers to five gallon buckets this week. Strange thing with these peppers – the ones I planted in five gallon buckets did not grow as lush and green as the ones planted in 1 gallon and 2 gallon pots. I suspect it has to do with the soil temperature and perhaps even the soil itself. I used straight bagged potting soil for the buckets, and in the smaller pots I used a potting soil with lots of perlite, some peat, and some fine pine bark chunks. That being the case, I’ll now need to transfer some of those peppers from the small pots to larger containers, they are too big for their pots.

And there marks the end of week twelve, a week of maintenance and upkeep.

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