For The Answer
Weekly Express-News ArticleSaturday, February 18, 2006
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD,
SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
“Tomato Growing Fanatics”
you a tomato growing fanatic or are ready to become one? Consider “potting up” tomatoes. It is a characteristic common to all tomato
growing fanatics in the
“Potting up” is the practice of placing individual tomato plants in containers now, then plant the result of the “potting up” into the vegetable garden about April 1 when the soil and air temperatures have warmed up enough to support tomato plant growth and fruit setting.
your tomato transplants now. Select from
Solar Fire, SunPride, Celebrity, Carnival, SunMaster, 444, and Bingo. They are all semi-determinate, which means
they grow their foliage and then set their fruit in relatively distinct stages
over a short season. Such a plant works
best for a climate like San Antonio where we have a short period of mild
weather in late spring (and again in the autumn) when conditions are suitable
for tomatoes. The indeterminate
varieties like Better Boy and Beefmaster produce fruit and grow foliage
together over a long season. In
Fill a one to three gallon black plastic container with a high quality potting soil (pass up the “bargain” mixes). Enrich the potting soil with Osmocote, or a similar slow release granular fertilizer made especially for containers. Be generous with the fertilizer, tomatoes are heavy feeders if you want maximum fruit production. Place the transplants in the container. They can be planted deeply; tomatoes are one of the few plants that can tolerate deep planting. Roots will form along the whole stem. This is especially important if you transplants are leggy or top heavy.
The goal of the “potting up” activity is to maintain the fast growth rate established at the nursery. Place the potted up tomato in full sun in a location out of the wind. The wind can injure foliage and reduces tomato growth considerably. A greenhouse is ideal, but many locations on the patio or the south side of the house also work well.
It is important that the tomatoes are kept well watered. Everyday or every other day, is not too often. Irrigate until the water emerges from the drip hole. The high quality potting soils are very well drained so they usually will not become soggy. Reduce watering when the weather is overcast and/or cool.
To maintain the tomato transplant in a growing state move it to shelter when temperatures below 40°F are forecast. That may mean putting the pots in the house on cold evenings.
If you do everything as per plan your “potted up” plants will be quite large and may even begin blooming by April when they can be transplanted to the vegetable garden.
Tomato growing fanatics also like to try new varieties. This
weekend is your last chance to buy Solar Fire, the 2006 Rodeo Tomato. It is available from the Master Gardeners and
the Gardening Volunteers of South Texas this weekend at the