1 Everything in the garden is growing so wonderfully this season, including the tomatoes. I thought it was a good time to check on their progress.
2 All the tomato plants are now well-supported under these bamboo teepee-like structures. These fast-growing plants have gone through quite a transformation over the last several weeks...
3 In early June, this area was just getting prepped for our crop. In order to make the beds neat, tidy, and free from weeds, Wilmer covered the beds with thick, black plastic, and secured the cloth to the ground using landscape staples.
4 And then, using a rose, or the removable sprinkler head from a watering can, as a guide, Ryan cut holes for each of the plants.
5 This rose is about six to eight inches in diameter - a perfect size for a tomato plant. Ryan cut circles about two feet apart, creating four spots down the center of each bed.
6 All the circles were cut - keeping the weeds at bay optimizes fruit production, and any kind of weed barrier can be used - newspaper, cardboard, landscape cloth or plastic. Just be sure to remove those materials, that are not compostable, at the end of the season.
7 Ryan uses a narrow shovel to dig the holes for the plants.
8 All the tomato plant beds were prepared the same way. Transplanted tomatoes that are kept free of weeds for the first four to eight weeks can usually outcompete emerging weeds later.
9 These tomato plants were started indoors from seed, and are now ready to go into the ground. Tomatoes should be planted in an area with full sun and well-drained soil.
10 Two-thirds of the plant should be underground, meaning all but the two top most leaf sets should be buried. Planting deeply helps the plant to develop more roots, and more roots mean more ability to take up water and nutrients.
11 Tomatoes favor a more acidic soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. The best fertilizer for tomato plants contains a relatively low concentration of nitrogen. High nitrogen content promotes the growth of stem and leaves, but not the fruit and flowers. Instead, tomato plants use phosphorous and potassium to produce fruit. Apply the fertilizer before the tomato plant is placed in the hole.
13 As the tomato plants grow, they also need to be staked for support. Staking helps to also keep the fruit off the ground, while helping to keep the plant somewhat upright.
14 One-week after the tomato seedlings were planted, the foot paths around the beds were covered with salt hay.
15 And here are the tomato plants three-weeks after planting - at this stage, they are staked with two to three foot tall bamboo canes.
16 One week later, the tomato plants are already taller than the stakes.
17 And, look closely on the right -- tomatoes have started to emerge.
18 Last week, Wilmer replaced the shorter bamboo stakes with taller ones, which were arranged as teepees. Don't use any chemically treated wood or other material for staking climbers, as the chemicals would likely run off and go into the soil.
19 I like to use bamboo canes for my tomato crops - they're easy to buy in bulk, and can be found in a variety of sizes.
20 The bamboo stakes went into the soil pretty easily - the important thing was to place them deep enough, so they remain secure for the duration of the season.
21 Wilmer embedded each stake about three to four inches deep, and angled slightly toward the middle of the plant.
22 Each of these tomato plants has three uprights creating the teepee support.
23 Once the bamboo canes were secured in the soil, Wilmer gathered them at the top, and tied jute twine around all the stakes.
24 We use jute gardening twine for so many projects around the farm. This twine is strong, doesn't slip easily, and is made from an all natural fiber.
25 Wilmer wrapped the twine around the bamboo several times and made sure it was taut enough to support the teepee structure.
26 All the teepees are done - they look quite artistic in the garden.
27 The tomato plants have a lot of room to climb, keeping delicious fruits off the ground.
28 Next, Wilmer gently tied the stems to the bamboo uprights to give them a bit of direction.The loop around the plant stem should be just tight enough to keep the vine secure, but not break it.
29 To keep the stems from getting crushed, I taught all the outdoor grounds crew members to twist the twine several times before securing to the bamboo.
30 Wilmer cuts off the ends of the twine to keep it tidy.
31 Securing the tomato plants is a time consuming process, but very crucial to good plant growth and performance.
32 These plants look so much better when kept upright and neat.
33 This week, there are lots of tomatoes growing on the vines.
34 There are several types of tomatoes available, including globe tomatoes used in processing, and for fresh eating. Beefsteak are large, often used for sandwiches. Oxheart tomatoes vary in size and are shaped like large strawberries. Plum tomatoes are usually oblong, and used in tomato sauces. Cherry tomatoes are small round, often sweet and eaten whole. Campari tomatoes are sweet and juicy and of small to medium size.
35 In another couple weeks, many of these tomatoes will be ready to harvest.
36 93-percent of American gardeners grow tomatoes in their yards, and according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, most Americans eat between 22 and 24 pounds of tomatoes per person, per year - this includes tomatoes in sauces.
37 Most tomato plant varieties need between 50 and 90 days to mature. Planting can also be staggered to produce early, mid and late season tomato harvests.
38 It's a a good idea to grow a range of varieties, including at least one or two disease-resistant types, since, of all veggies, tomatoes tend to be the most susceptible to disease.
39 Here are the tomato plants now - very soon, we will have many, many delicious tomatoes to enjoy - I can't wait. How are your tomatoes doing this year?