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intertruth: the garden of eden is your cure

Rosa Lokey Orbe, J.D. CalBRE License # 02067079

Growing Tomatoes Solanum lycopersicum

Lots of Sun, Manure, Pruning and Water

pH 5.5-6.5

I think growing tomatoes is one of the collective things we do as a world culture. All of the Old World cultures have tomato as the basis of their diet. I have a suspicion that tomatoes keep the sex drive intact.

I grow tomatoes from seed and I buy tomato starts from the organic gardening business I do business with.

Planting tomatoes:

Every year around the middle of March to the first of April, I sow tomato seeds. By the end of May you will have starts that are about an inch to two inches in height and they can be placed in small containers to allow them to become mature enough to place them in any garden. I also buy professional starts from the nursery and have them in the ground by the middle of April. 

Tomato Square Footage:

For an area 10" deep by 4' by 8', (Building from scratch) I use the dirt that is in that area plus 1-1/2-2 bags of soil, 1-1/2-2 bags of compost, 1/2-1 bag of sand and 1 bag of manure. 

  • I use Mary Jane's Blend Potting Soil and Double Doody Manure from Point Reyes Compost Company

Planting & Pruning Tomatoes:

  • When you buy starter tomatoes they should already have some blooms on the green.
  • You must always remove the bottom leaf/leaves (of indeterminates) that have no blooms on it, so the blooms & sugars can move up the stem to the higher areas of the plant.
  • Once planted, there should be a leaf free stem of about 3" between the top of the root and the first bottom leaf. And when you plant the tomato plant make sure the bottom leaf is just above the soil about 1". Next you remove the bottom leaves and open up the stem up to 3".
  • In other words plant the tomato plant DEEP.
  • Generally tomato blossoms show on every other stem. ALWAYS remove stems that have no blooms on them that lay beneath the lowest area that blooms. I do not want to remove the whole leaf in certain cases so I remove half of the leaf.
  • Tomato plants NEED TO BE PRUNED. Prune at least every two weeks. In the crevice where the leaf meets the stem, there will arise another little leaf (sucker) and that should be removed also. These leaves and growths will only stifle tomato growth & sweetness.
  • DO NOT remove the crown from the tomato. You will know the crown when you see it. It sits on top of the plant and it looks like a little tomato crown.
  • BUT remove leaves beneath blooming stems that have no blooms on them.
  • Keep top leaves above the blooms intact to shade the tomatoes from overhead heat.

Tomato Spacing:

  • If I have plenty of room I space my tomato plants about 4" apart, I then I dig a hole about the depth of the tomato root plus another 2".
  • I have spaced my plants 2 inches and less apart when the need arose.
  • Tomatoes need soil underneath them. Give the bottom of the roots about 3-4" of soil underneath.
  • I mix a handful of manure in the soil, mix in a very small amount of sand & soil and place my tomato plant on top and cover with soil. I then stake a 6' tall bamboo pole approximately 4" behind the plant. Once the plant begins to grow you can tie up the plant so it will not droop.
  • In my personal garden I have two rows of 6 tomato plants each for a total of 12 tomato plants and I have the tomato plant rows staggered. I have my bamboo stake in between the rows of tomatoes and I pair up two plants on each row and stake the two plants using a total of 6 stakes. I leave 4" between each row and 4" between each plant.
  • Use a figure eight wrap technique to tie your tomatoes. Start the tie around the back of the pole, holding one end of the tie in each hand. Then cross over each end left to right or right to left and do this in between the pole and the tomato. Then you now have the opposite ends in your hands. Now bring each end around to the front of the tomato and tie in the front of the stem.
  • If your tomato plants get TOO much Sun they can crack. I have my tomato plants on the side of a tree so that the morning sun gets to my plants and some of the afternoon sun but not all of it.

Determinate and Undeterminate plants:

  • Determinate tomato plants will only get so tall and then they stop growing. You do not need to prune determinate plants.
  • Undeterminate tomato plants can grow to be 12 feet tall or more. So if you are planting undeterminate tomatoes make sure you get a 6' pole to stake it to.
  • I top dress alittle OMRI- Actino Iron around the plant when I first plant them and then about every 2-3 weeks. Tomatoes can easily get root rot. I have never had this problem. I believe the Actino and the Neem Oil conditioner (see recipe on the Spray and Pest Control page) is so effective that it keeps my plants happy
  • And of course the beauty of Manure is that it helps keep the plant and roots very healthy. Feed them manure every 2-3 weeks.
  • I test the pH every 2-3 weeks and apply manure if the pH is too high (alkaline). 

Watering Tomatoes:

  • I give my plants a good water and then let them dry out. So about every two to three days I water.
  • DO NOT DROUGHT STRESS YOUR PLANTS. They will not grow well.
  • Tomatoes are just like any other living being: tomatoes need water to live and grow.

There are many ways to bind your tomatoes, You can let them lay on the ground, in a cage, up a trellis or a string. I use the bamboo poles. They are inexpensive and you can use them over and over again.