Edibles · Garden · Kids · Planting

It’s Tomato Time!

I finally got the tomatoes planted! It’s been high on my to-do list for the last month so I’m thrilled that the task is finally done. I planted my first two tomatoes during the third week of February which was a tad later than I had hoped. You need to use some type of season extender when planting that early because we still have a chance of frost until the beginning of March.   Each of them was kept nice and toasty with a Wall O’ Water. Soon after I planted those, I picked up three more tomato seedlings from a local gardening buddy who blogs over at www.artisticgardener.com. I meant to get them planted right away but that didn’t happen. My garden time this spring has been very sporadic. I’ve had to squeeze in a few minutes here and there and figure out what is the most important task at that moment. I needed more Wall O’ Waters in order to plant them but by the time I managed to buy them it was warm enough that I didn’t really need them. It still got pretty chilly some nights up until this week so I brought them inside each night. Our backyard gets about 5 degrees cooler than what The Weather Channel has listed for our city. A few nights were still down into the mid 30’s.

 

Yellow Pear Tomato, Photo from Territorial Seed
Yellow Pear Tomato, Photo from Territorial Seed

 

We’re now into the second week of March and it looks like our cold nights are behind us. If I’m wrong, it’s easy to throw a frost cover over the tomatoes to keep them warm. On Monday the girls went out to play after lunch and I made it very clear that I needed to get the tomatoes planted. They weren’t really interested in helping but they were happy to let me work since I let them play with the hose. Lately, they haven’t been too thrilled when I step away from them for a few minutes to work on the garden which is why I’ve only had small bits of time this spring. Storyteller seems to have lost interest in the garden for now. I always ask if she’d like to help but she’s usually busy in her own world. Comedian loves to be my helper and she’s a great example of why it’s important to have extra seedlings when smaller children help in the garden. She wants to do everything herself and it sometimes ends with dead seedlings. Luckily, she was extra careful with the tomatoes!  Whew!

 

Tomato, Gold Berries, photo from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Tomato, Gold Berries, photo from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

 

Yes, now is the time to be planting tomatoes in Southern Nevada. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to garden in Las Vegas. This is a town where everyone comes from somewhere else and they still try to garden the same way they did back home. The nurseries here don’t help that problem when they are still selling tomato seedlings in June. Our local nurseries often sell plants when it’s not the correct time to plant them. In our climate, we are harvesting tomatoes when many people in other parts of the country are planting them. We actually have a short season because tomatoes will stop producing when it’s gets too hot during our summer. Most of the varieties will revive when the weather cools for the fall.

 

TomaDr. Wyche's, Photo from Seeds of Change
TomaDr. Wyche’s, Photo from Seeds of Change

 

How to Plant Tomatoes

Tomatoes like to be planted deep. Pick off a few of the bottom leaves and bury the stem deeply.   More roots will grow along the stem where the leaves were.  If you are planting in cold soil then you may want to plant the roots horizontally because the soil is warmest near the surface.  Lay the tomato seedling on it’s side and very gently bend the stem to bring it up and it will grow vertically.  I put a small sprinkle of Epsom salts in the bottom of the hole. This year I have worm castings so each plant got a big handful mixed into the soil before planting. I did a soil test this spring which showed that my nutrient balance is good except for nitrogen so I added some blood meal to my beds.

One garden teacher of mine taught us to untangle the roots and rip off the bottom half of them. This sends the plant into shock and it quickly makes more roots which will better support a large tomato plant. I haven’t tried it. I don’t think I have the courage but I thought I’d pass along that bit in case someone wants to give it a try. Now that all my tomatoes are planted, I may pick up an extra plant and try it.

 

Super Sweet 100 -Photo from Johnny's Selected Seeds
Super Sweet 100 -Photo from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

 

My goal of planning out my garden has not been going well. I just kind of wing it and usually end up with something quite different than I originally had pictured. This season is no different. I was planning on only four tomato plants which will fit in one of my 4’x4′ raised beds based on the Square Foot Garden spacing.  I have six tomato plants so far so the other two ended up in containers. I may end up with another one or two before I’m done. I guess that’s not a bad thing as long as I can find the space! Tomatoes can take up a lot of room especially the indeterminate varieties.  I have plans for my other garden beds that don’t include tomatoes so any more seedlings that I pick up will have to go in containers.  My  tomato line up this year (so far) includes Early Girl, Super Sweet 100, Dr. Wyche’s, Gold Berries, Stupice and Yellow Pear.  Yum!

 

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