Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Time for Tomatoes

February seems to be about all things RED. Valentine's Day, Heart Month, and now tomato planting time!

If, like me, you live in the low desert of Arizona, there are a few tricks to growing tomatoes. Selecting the best type of tomato helps.  Because tomatoes can split with too much water and water is one of the most challenging elements to regulate, I like to plant cherry or grape tomatoes.  An especially prolific type is called Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes.  I planted one this fall as an experiment and it has grown slowly, but provided me a handfull of ripe tomaotes all winter.  I expect it will take off once the weather warms up a bit more!  However, my friend Liz has one that is on it's third season and provides bowls of tomatoes a week and grows as tall as her house!

Tomatoes are tricky. Blossom End Rot, is a common disorder of tomatoes in the low desert. It is believed to be caused by a calcium deficiency in the plant as a result of stress due to uneven irrigation. Our desert soils and irrigation water generally have plenty of calcium, so calcium deficiency problems in the soil are rare and adding calcium to the soil is not effective. Instead, apply several inches of an organic mulch to help retain constant moisture by regular irrigation to even out water movement in the plants. For more information, refer to U of A Fact Sheet "Tomato Blossom End Rot in the Low Desert".

Here's an excerpt from a Master Gardener publication on planting them to increase their sturdiness.

"When you are ready to put home-grown or purchased plants into the ground, select stocky transplants about six to ten inches tall. Set tomato transplants in the ground covering the stems so that only two or three sets of true leaves are exposed. Horizontal planting of tomato plants is an effective way to make plants stronger, especially leggy ones. Roots will form along the buried portion of the stem, giving better growth and less chance of plant injury from a too-weak stem. Do not remove the containers if they are peat or paper pots, but open or tear off one side to allow roots to get a good start. If non-biodegradable containers are used, knock the plants out of the pots before transplanting, and loosen the roots somewhat. Press the soil firmly."
 
You can read their publication on tomatoes here.
 
Slow Food Phoenix is hosting a Tomato Fest February 13th from 10am-4pm at Maya's Farm at The Farm at South Mountain located at 6106 S. 32nd Street in Phoenix. Tomatoes can be hard to grow in the desert. Come join us and learn all the ins and outs of being successful with tomatoes.

They will have classes taught by local tomato experts on choosing the variety that's right for you, prep and planting in your garden, pruning and caring for your tomatoes, and how to keep them around all year long. To attend the event and purchase tomato starts is free. To attend any one or all three of the classes the cost is $10 each or all three for $25. To RSVP for the event and purchase tickets please visit http://slowfoodtomato.eventbrite.com/ Class size is limited to 35 people for each class.

I hope this encourage you to plant a few tomayoes this year.  I know I will plant a few heirloom type just for a bit of variety.

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess
http://www.down2earthgardens.com/

3 comments:

Jane Ellis said...

Thanks Ms. goddess... and good luck to you and your veggie garden this year!

The best way to support your tomato plants is with The Tomato Stake.
Easier to use than metal cages or upside down planters, stronger than bamboo and won't rot like wood stakes. The built-in twist-tie supports make tying your tomato plants easy!

Montse said...

I planted tomatoes about two weeks ago. Is it too late in the season? They are transplants that are nice and full. The yellow pears are blooming.
Thank you!

Doreen said...

Jane - Thanks for the tip on how to stake the tomato!

Montse - not too late at all in PHX - just be sure to protect them from too MUCH and HOT sun.

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