Monday, September 27, 2010

Found -- Secret to Growing Tomatoes

After writing about the Great Tomato Experiment in that last post, I came upon some info from notes written by my Grandfather, apparently in the late 40's or early 1950's. He was a small farmer in illinois, who did really well with 10 acres.  He operated a roadside booth and sold fresh veggies and strawberries to rabid, loyal customers from the surrounding area. Kind of like the Home Farm movement that's going on today.

Too little too late, should have read this good stuff before planting my little tomato garden . . . boy, did I ever mess up!
Well, they say 'live and learn' so I'll pass on his information to you, though you're probably a smarter gardener than I am. For what it's worth, happy to share.The one thing I did right was to wait 'til all danger of frost was past.

Grandpa's notes said to cover the small plants with a clay pot to protect them from the sun, but to uncover them at night and on cloudy days. He said to space them 24" apart if you weren't going to stalk them and 36" if you did plan to stalk them.

Whoa! I planted mine in a planter box only about 9" apart! Guess it's a wonder I had any to eat.

He said to put a paper collar 2" above and 2" below the soil, also. This prevents cut worms from getting to them. One thing he didn't mention is the benefit of having chickens around to eat all the worms before planting a garden. Suppose that could make a big difference. As the family story goes, he started raising chickens, but later discovered my Grandma had an allergy to them and got rid of them after a short time.

Next on Grandpa's list is mulch. he said to use 2-3 inches of straw or other mulch material. Scratch up the soil before applying mulch, he warned, as it protects against drying of the soil due to wind and sun.

Finally, he recommended hand fertilizing with a weak solution of water and liquid fertilizer. I think I managed to water my tomatoes "once in awhile" with plain water. Will do better next year.

Unfortunately, Grandpa died long before my Dad even met my Mom, so I never had the privilege of knowing him. From what I hear, though, we'd have become best buddies in a split second. Too bad he didn't have time to publish a book about his farming experiences.

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