Tuesday, June 5, 2012

First Tomato Blossom

   I spotted the first blossom on my "Yellow Pear" tomato plant this morning.  All of my tomato plants have been developing buds, but this one is the first that opened.  It's relatively small because the "Yellow Pear" tomato produces lots of bite-size, pear-shaped fruits.  I'm looking forward to adding them to my salad, but my favorite way of eating tomatoes is just right off the vine, warm from the summer heat.  I love the smell of the tomato plants.  I find it so aromatic and refreshing!

   Here's a picture of my "Brandywine" tomato.  This one is currently the biggest of the three I have, measuring about 12" tall and 24" wide at the widest leaf span.  The central stem is nice and thick and looking rather compact and dense.  When I first got this plant from the local nursery, it was a skinny little thing in a 2 1/4" size pot, measuring maybe 4 inches in height.  So it's grown marvelously so far.  We have had record heat in our area for this early in summer with 96 degrees and 98 degrees for daily high for the last two days. The local TV station's weatherman said the last time we had this kind of heat this early in the season was back in 1972.  So this is my first time experiencing this kind of heat here in western Colorado.  But the tomatoes and corn -- actually most any summer flowers and vegetables -- seem to be really liking it.   My peas are turning yellow in silent protest. ^^;

   I am really impressed with the way the tomatoes are growing in the SFG box.  Traditionally, we've all been  told to plant them deep and water them deep, and that's what I have always done in the past in the in-ground gardens.  I was most concerned (and curious) about how tomatoes will perform in the SFG box, but I have to say that I'm impressed so far.  The soil medium holds moisture well and the plants never showed any signs of transplant shock.  Of course, the leaves got a little burned from the strong outdoor sun, coming from the screened sunlight of the hot house, but the plants grew fast enough to overcome the loss of those leaves remarkably well.

   In the past, I've tried the "remove the lower leaves and plant them deep" method.  I think they did just fine, but I couldn't really tell that much of a difference from when I just planted them the same level with the soil level in the pots they came in.  This time, I tried what Mel Bartholomew recommended in his book "All New Square Foot Gardening": remove the lower leaves and plant them in a slanted trench so most of the plant is under the soil.  Basically, you make a reclining 'bed' for the tomato plant in the soil and bury most of the main stem.  The stem under the soil will grow roots, so you get a bigger root system, which contribute to a stronger, more vigorous plant.  He explained the benefit of the horizontal approach as compared to the vertical version of "bury deep" method.  In the spring planting time, the soil temperature, once past a certain level, is still fairly low.  By planting your tomatoes in a shallow trench, you can take advantage of the warmth of the soil closer to the surface.  Makes sense, doesn't it?

   When you plant your tomatoes in this 'shallow trench' method, you'll initially end up with the top few or several inches of plant poking up above the ground, but practically lying sideways.  It looks kind of 'wrong' at first, maybe even a bit 'pathetic', but all of my tomatoes were upright before dusk on the very day they were planted.  And they grow straight up from there.  They 'know' what's going on and exactly what to do. ^^

   So far, aside from the original compost that comprised the 1/3 of the soil mix, I have only given my SFG boxes the following: sea weed concentrate (diluted), fish tank water, and pond water.  I used to use the powdered concentrate (I believe it was marketed as "Sea Magic" or something similar to it.) that you mix with water, then dilute as you use it.  I can't find the powdered version at my local nursery, so I've switched to the liquid concentrate called "Age Old Kelp".  It provides micro-nutrients and trace minerals that are missing in most commercial chemical fertilizers.  The plants respond so much to this stuff it's become one of my favorite organic fertilizers.  Then there's the fish tank water.  It's the perfect thing to water my house plants with, and great for the SFG boxes as well.  The minor problem with this fabulous organic fertilizer is that the cats love to drink it, and everything I water with becomes irresistible to them for a short while. XD  There is absolutely no risk of burning or over-feeding with the fish tank/pond water.  The nutrients dissolved in the water are in the form that are ready to be used by the plant's system right away, so the results are quickly observable.  I think it's always extra rewarding when your plants are doing well, but when they show a marked, positive response to the little extra care you give them, it's their way of thanking, and it feels SO GOOD! :)

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