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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

KNOL: Ten Tips For Preventing Early Tomato Blight: A Disease

Ten Good Habits to Manage Tomato Diseases

What is Early Tomato Blight?

It is a fungus. A fungus that releases spores. The spores spread onto other leaves. The spores spread to other plants. The fungus is Alternaria Solani. It is one disease your tomatoes can get. The disease typically takes hold on the bottom leaves of tomatoes, typical when fruit first sets and humidity comes into the picture. It starts out as tiny brown spots on lower leaves. For My area, in Zone 7 Maryland, Early Blight shows about mid July when the humidity, as I mentioned, arrives.

The initial brown spots maybe hard to see at first. The spots turn yellow, grow and spread. The yellow spots might have a light brown/black/gray center of concentric rings. The spots are a good size once the yellow ring forms. The discolored center looks like dried leaf surrounded by a yellow ring. This yellow ring with a brown center is what you use to identify Early Blight.

Early Blight - Concentric Brown Rings with Yellow Edges.

The picture of my tomatoes, below, have some leaves with blight.  It also shows the die back from determinate varieties like the one in the front and some plants just didn't do well with 95+ degree heat. The point is that it can be very hard to identify diseases like Early Blight, Leaf Spot and Late Blight from standard die back of leaves or other issues like ailments from nutrients. It is confusing. You should do a Google search for tomato disease pictures. It helps with identification.

Some Early Blight Spots - The Rusted Garden Blog

If left unmanaged the disease will travel up your plant and it can even damage the fruit. You will notice brown dots on the tomatoes if this happens. Eventually, the leaves die and drop off, leaving your fruit exposed to sun scalding. The plants weaken and often die or stop producing.

I wish the goal was total prevention of the Early Blight or any disease but I think a better goal is practicing good habits to manage down diseases and their damage.  If you can manage diseases (yes hopefully prevent it) so it progresses slowly then your tomatoes can often out pace the spread of the disease with its own growth and production. My growing area is know for Early Blight. A lot depends on the climate. Some of you will never see it. Last year it was not only was kept in check, I didn't see much of it. I practice most of these 10 habits. I just don't always have the time or space to practice them all.

How is Early Blight Spread?

As mention Early Blight is a fungus. When the fungus gets wet and conditions are right, spores are released. The spores spread the fungus. The fungus is spread by splashing water, human contact, wind and even insects. The spores can travel distances through hands, tools, insects and wind.

Early Blight needs warm wet weather to spread and grow. If you have warm weather and moisture, your garden is at risk. Early Blight, once established in your garden, can over winter in your garden on debris and weeds.

The Ten Good Habits for Managing Tomato Disease

Number One: Don't let it over winter!

You can't vacuum up the spores unfortunately. At the end of the season throw away, don't compost, all infected debris and surrounding debris. It is also important to pull up all the weeds in the beds as they take over in the Fall and early Winter period. Spores can over winter, as mentioned, on debris and weed hosts. You want to reduce the number of spores laying around in wait.

Number Two: Turn the soil in mid Winter.

The spores aren't super spores. Burying them into the earth helps remove them. Some people may not like to turn their garden in the Winter because it exposes the worms. I prefer to turn it because it also exposes snails and snail eggs. I figure the worms are plentiful in my area and I am only turning about 10 inches of the garden. The worms will survive and you can bury potential diseases that will die out in the earth.

Number Three: Create a soil barrier, also known as mulching.

Since Early Blight doesn't come right away, you have time to mulch and create a soil barrier. This is effective for many diseases in your garden. You can use newspaper, plastic, grass clipping or anything you wish. You want to create a splash barrier. Rain drops and over head watering, splash soil on to the tomato plants. That is one way to infect your plant. If you seal the soil then you will reduce the chances of spores finding your plant. I suggest using a layer of newspaper covered with mulch or grass clippings. Bottom line, you don't want your soil exposed to your plant.

Mostly Healthy Green Leaves - The Rusted Garden Blog

Number Four: Water from the bottom not the top!

The spores need moisture. Watering from the bottom prevents splashing as mentioned above, splashing is bad. Watering from the top of your plant makes for wet moist leaves and it creates a temporary humid micro climate. The moisture allows the fungus to produce spores. Dry leaves. Dry leaves. Dry leaves. I don't recommend watering in the evening. Let the sun be your friend and dry up the garden area. Night time watering lets the moisture sit all night. Dry leaves. Did I mention Dry leaves?

Number Five: Air circulation, plant staking and no touching.

Air circulation allows the wind to blow through your plants. This allows for the timely drying of leaves and it helps break up micro climates. If your plants are packed too tightly together, they themselves become barriers to drying. Staking your plants to poles and using cages helps them grow upright and it creates gaps between the tomato plants. You want to wind and sun to reach through and around your plants. Moisture is needed for Early Blight to spread. Dry is good. Staking and caging also keeps each plant from touching. The tomatoes should be planted with enough distance that only minor pruning is needed to keep them from touching each other.

Under Standing Soil Splash and Disease Prevention

Number Six: Remove 12-18 inches of bottom leaves and prune your plants.

Early Blight typically grabs hold on the bottom leaves first. I already mentioned soil barriers and watering from the bottom of the plants to prevent splashing. The next step is to create a 1-2 foot space (depending on the adult size of your tomato plant) between the garden soil or mulch and the first leaves of the tomato plant. Prune the bottom leaves from you plant, over time, as it grows, to create an 12 to 18 inch barrier gap. If the spores can't splash upwards and reach the leaves, they can't take hold. The stem usually isn't a place for the spores, though it can be. If you have large plants, you might consider cutting off some branches to let the sun and wind blow through the main body of your tomato plant.

Number Seven: After the tomatoes set add some nitrogen.

A healthy plant tends to fight off the spores. You don't want to add too much nitrogen to your tomatoes before they set fruit. Too much nitrogen before fruiting leads to more leaves and less fruit. The leaves are what the spores want. Once the fruit is set, a nitrogen boost can help strengthen your plant. This is a one shot deal. This tip would basically include keeping your tomatoes well nourished as to keep them strong.

Number Eight: Remove infected leaves immediately.

A leaf should be completely green. Remove leaves that show signs of disease immediately. Look for brown spots or yellow spots or distress. Keep in mind your hands and tools can spread spores. Take precautions not to spread the spores yourself. You should remove leaves and prune when it is dry and sunny. Wash your tools and hands often.

Number Nine: Spray the plants proactively.

There are a lot of products out there for Early Blight. I suggest checking them out and deciding what you are going to use. I use wettable sulfur. It creates an environment on the leaves the spores don't like. The key to spraying with wettable sulfur is to do it weekly before signs of the disease shows. Other products also help stop the spread. Whatever you select, the key is to spray early and regularly.

Number Ten: Rotate your crop.

I leave this tip for last because most of us do not have enough space to do this effectively. Because Early Blight also effects other plants, rotation in small gardens isn't practical or even possible. But if you have the room, move your tomatoes to plots that are free of Early Blight spores. You can find standard rotation plans on the internet. I wish I had more room to do this. A typically rotation schedule suggest 3 years away from a plot before returning the same crop.

In Summary: Managing Tomato Diseases
Most things in the garden are managed to the lowest possible level of damage. Early Blight and other diseases are handled the same way. These ten habits will hopefully prevent Early Blight from coming to a tomato near you.

I also suggest Number Eleven... water your plant with an aspirin. I have been reading that salicylic acid, in aspirin, triggers a defense response in tomatoes. It boost the immune system so to speak. Do a search on aspirin and tomatoes. It is interesting, I have been doing it several years and believe it greatly helps.

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KNOL: Mulching Your Vegetable Garden With Grass Clippings

This entry is a copy from a KNOL I wrote found at Google. Google will be discontinuing the KNOL's platform and I am in the process of storing them on my blog. Please enjoy the article. I have about 50 coming over to this blog.

Grass clippings are probably one of the easiest resources to get to for your vegetable garden. You can start mulching your beds as soon as grass clipping are available. There are some things to keep in mind when using them. Things like seeds, chemicals and over doing it.

My YouTube Videos on Garden Mulching and Disease Prevention: I have over 50 garden videos. Why not join my YouTube Channel. Mulching with Grass Clippings Disease Prevention Pruning and Mulching Mulching Your Vegetable Garden With Grass Clippings
by Gary Pilarchik, LCSW-C

What Does Mulching Do?

It prevents weeds from germinating and taking over.
It creates a barrier for soil born diseases.
It creates a barrier to keep the soil moist and it prevents evaporation. (saves on watering)
It provides your garden with organic matter to be turned into the bed at the end of the season.
It keeps you plants cleaner.

You Can't Use All Grass Clippings!
You want to use grass clippings that are free of chemicals and seed heads. There is no point in putting grass clippings in your gardens that have seeds either from the grass itself or from weeds like dandelion heads. You can tell by looking at your lawn. If you are cutting grass with seeds, compost it or trash it. It will grow back in a week and you can use that grass.

You don't want to use grass that has been sprayed with weed killers, preventatives or other chemicals. You should skip using the next cutting as mulch. There is no need to take a chance of putting chemicals into your garden beds that don't belong there. The chemicals can leach off the clippings or may still be active in the clippings.

Use Only Fresh Grass Clippings
This is pretty easy if you are cutting your own grass. I have taken neighbors clippings before with caution. You need to make sure they are good clean cuttings and they haven't been sitting in the trash bag for more then a few hours. Grass readily decomposes and if you get a hot decaying bag of grass for your garden... you will also get a good stink along with it. Fresh clippings work without a bad smell.

Sprinkle 2 to 3 Inches Of Grass Clippings
The difference between sifted flour and unsifted flour is air and fluffiness. You want the same for your grass clippings. Don't put more then 3 inches down and a time and make sure you gently drop the clippings and leave them. Don't tamp it down or press it down. Let is sit lightly on the garden. The key to using grass clippings is to allow them to brown and dry out. This is what you want for mulch. If you put to much down or press it down, you create a decaying pile that will brown on the top but yellow and decompose beneath. It will begin to smell and it can harbor insects.

Allow The Grass Clippings To Brown And Dry Out Before Adding More
You want all the grass to be browned and dried before you add another layer of green clippings. You may have to gently rake the clippings to expose the bottom grass. On warm sunny days this will occur in about 3 days. On hot days this can occur within 24 hours. Take a look at the clippings and when they are dry and brown, you can add more. Continue to add 2-3 inches at a time. You can stop this when you feel like you have a good layer of mulch. I usually stop at 4 inches of dried grass around my tomatoes and peppers.

Mulching Can Prevent Your Seeds From Reaching The Surface
I mulch my tomatoes and peppers to 4 inches as mention. They are already above the ground. People have put seeds in the ground and over mulched. The seeds don't come out of the ground. You can smoother them so to speak. If you put in squash seeds, cucumbers seeds or beans (as examples), only mulch with about a 1/4 inch of green grass. The goal is to make a thin layer of mulch to help with moisture. After the seeds germinate and are growing, you can add more clippings.

Try My Google Gardening Search Box
I tweaked this search box to better reference all things gardening. It will provide you with highly specific searches beyond what a typical Google search can do.

It is located on the top page of my Garden Blog: The Rusted Garden. Try it and join my Blog while you are there. Thanks.

My Other Gardening Knols
Join My Garden Blog:The Rusted Garden

Sometimes the links below, by title, are defunct for unknown reasons.
Here is a main link, if one below is not active. This link is always active My Gardening Knols Direct Link

How to Grow A Salsa Garden
How to Plant a Tomato an Tend to Its Needs
Cool Weather Vegetable Gardening
Growing Radishes
How to Create a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
What are Heirloom Vegetable Seeds
Starting Tomatoes Indoors (In Pictures)
Ten Things About Tomatoes
How to Build a Garden Slug Beer Trap (In Pictures)
How to Grow Upside Down Tomatoes (In Pictures)

How to Grow Tomatoes in an 18 Gallon Storage Container (In Pictures)
Three Finger Method to Pruning Tomatoes (In Pictures)
Building a Framed Layer "Lasagna" Garden (In Pictures)
Deadheading Flowers: How to Keep Your Plants Flowering
Controlling Leaf Eating Caterpillars with Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt)
Growing Basil Everywhere: A Year Round Herb
Growing for Size: Radishes, Carrots and Root Crops
How to Build a Hot-House Tomato Cage: A Slideshow in Pictures
A Basic Garden Dirt or Soil Recipe
How to Grow Peppers: What Makes a Hot Pepper Hot?
When to Start Tomatoes Indoors and Plant Outdoors
Public Domain Gardening Books and Articles
Combating Garden Slugs & Snails LOL: Iron Phosphate
Ten Tips For Managing Early Tomato Blight: A Disease
Mulching Your Vegetable Garden With Grass Clippings

My Gardening Recipe Knols
A Basic Salsa Recipe (In Pictures)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Get Your Gardend Ready for 2012: Clear and Turn the Earth Now!

There is always something to do in the garden. You can save yourself a lot of problems by cleaning and clearing your garden beds and turning the earth in the cold months.

You will have to do this again in the Spring come cool season crop planting but you can do a lot now to make it easier for yourself come Spring.

At this point (in Maryland) you probably have had issues with multiple diseases and pests. I still have a white-fly problem and will be sadly cutting down all my Winter kale.

Take a look at my pictures and you can see tomato remains and weeds. Disease harbors in old plant (if you have themmaterial and can actually take hold on leaves on the weeds. I don't know enough to tell you which weeds are bad but the less growing the better. Pests, like slugs, can live under leaves and dead materials.

December Garden Waste: Gary Pilarchik

Clearing the Winter Garden: Gary Pilarchik
You can see I need to remove dead tomatoes, old support posts, lots of weeds and anything else laying around. You don't need to be perfect. Once you clear most of it out... throw it out. Don't compost in the cold. It will just sit there and there is good chance you will put the problems back into your garden come Spring. Bag it and trash it.

Once generally cleared, the earth about 12 inches. Don't worry about the earth worms they will be fine. The slugs will be disturbed and slug eggs will be disturbed. That is good because there is a good chance that frost on exposed snail and slug eggs will kill them. Plus turning diseased material be it Early Blight (the plague of Maryland) or Powder Mildew you get Mother Nature working for you killing the buried problems.

This is just one step in cleaning and preparing your garden. I will blog about mulches and other things as the Spring arrives. Cool season crops are just around the corner.

Notice the waste in front of the beds. That will all get bagged and thrown out.

Cleared, Cleaned and Turned for Winter: Gary Pilarchik

A Different View of a Turned Garden: Gary Pilarchik

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Garden Poetry: Directions to the Rain Barrel

Gardening and writing are relaxing. Sometimes a poem goes through growth stages. I particularly like this one during the Winter months. I typically revise my poetry when the garden sleeps.

Directions to the Rain Barrel

You might drink...

From the aged gray - black iron ringed rain barrel,
To quench your thirst from an early morning walk.

The one filled with a cool night's country rain.

It collects by the corner of the old cottage house,
By the climbing rose and creeping red dianthus.

Follow the moss and stone covered path,
Just past the clusters of mint and lemon balm.

The rain barrel stands with the daffodils and irises.

A cast iron ladle sits on the fence post.
Plunge it through the floating yellow rose petals.

And watch your feet! - the barrel is full from the night.

Gary Pilarchik (revised Dec 2012)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stink Bugs and Home Pest Control

I am looking forward to January. That is the time I will be starting plants indoors for the 2012 garden season. A garden is plagued by pests.While the frost and freeze wipes out our plants, they don't  necessarily wipe out the bugs and pests. In my case, I am figuring out how to get rid of white-flies that just won't leave.

Stink Bugs and Squash Bugs look similar and invade the home garden. But did you know the Stink Bugs can actually over-winter in parts of your house. Check out the web and find out where Stink Bugs like to spend the Maryland Winters. Pest control  around the home can also help you garden. Sometimes it is good to get rid of them while they are sleeping the cold days away in and around your home. That is... before they wake up to come and snack on your Spring garden.

Monday, December 19, 2011

My New Year Goals: 75,000 Views and 100 Members and...

I want to thank all the visitors to my blog. It makes gardening that much more enjoyable to know there are millions of us out there. There is something so basic and rewarding about digging in the earth and eating from it. Not the worms but from the seeds we plant in it (blog entry joke). I only hope to help more people discover that simple pleasure.

Winter is next Thursday. The New Year is 12 days away. I have some goals this year. Some goals I need help with and would hope you could help me with some of them.

1. I'd like to achieve 75 - 100,000 page view by the close of Summer 2012.

2. I'd like to achieve over 100 members to my blog by the close of Summer 2012.

3. I plan to create a Rusted Garden Facebook page.

4. I plan to attach Twitter to the Rusted Garden.

5. I plan to bring dozens of my own videos to the blog that cover all aspects of gardening.

6. I plan on having 5 things for sale on my blog.

7. I plan to create away for visitors to communicate and share information. That may be Facebook. I have been experimenting with Message Rooms but haven't found one that works well enough.

8. I plan to increase the photos as ways to quickly communicate gardening information and techniques.

9. I plan to write 250 blog entries about gardening by the close of Summer 2012.

10. I would like to create away to link members gardening blogs together is some useful and organized fashion.

Suggestions on how to achieve parts of this are welcome. Please leave ideas here.


PS. Jan 15th starts indoor seed growing. Those perennials take some time to grow!

KNOL: Controlling Leaf Eating Caterpillars with Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt)

This entry is a copy from a KNOL I wrote found at Google. Google will be discontinuing the KNOL's platform and I am in the process of storing them on my blog. Please enjoy the article. I have about 50 coming over to this blog.

Leaf eating caterpillars typically attack my cabbages and kales. Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) is a way to control caterpillars in your garden. Bt is a bacteria that kills the caterpillars by interrupting their digestive process. The caterpillars starve to death. Bt is documented as having an extremely low toxicity to humans and other forms of life. Simply put... Bt targets the caterpillars.

Controlling Leaf Eating Caterpillars with

Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt)

by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C

Is it Toxic to Humans and Other Wildlife?

You can read the entire artice at this link: Extoxnet.orst.edu
Below is a section of the document found at the above link. It details the toxicological effects of Bt. I recommend going to the link and reading the entire document. It will provide you with a clear understanding of the bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis. It is important to understand the effects of the products you are using in your garden. You can use the information from this link, as one source , in determining whether or not you would use Bt in your garden. I also recommend a quick google search for additional information. I consider Bt to have a low level of toxicity and use it in my garden.

Toxicological Effects:

  • Acute toxicity: B.t. is practically non-toxic to humans and animals. Humans exposed orally to 1000 mg/day of B.t. showed no effects [146]. A wide range of studies have been conducted on test animals, using several routes of exposure. The highest dose tested was 6.7 x 10^11 spores per animal. The results of these tests suggest that the use of B.t. products causes few, if any, negative effects. B.t. was not acutely toxic in tests conducted on birds, dogs, guinea pigs, mice, rats, and humans. No oral toxicity was found in rats, or mice fed protein crystals from B.t. var. israelensis [147]. The LD50 is greater than 5000 mg/kg for the B.t. product Javelin in rats and greater than 13,000 mg/kg in rats exposed to the product Thuricide [147,148]. Single oral dosages of up to 10,000 mg/kg did not produce toxicity in mice, rats, or dogs [148]. The dermal LD50 for a formulated B.t. product in rabbits is 6280 mg/kg. A single dermal application of 7200 mg/kg of B.t. was not toxic to rabbits [148]. B.t. is an eye irritant; 100 grams of formulated product applied in each eye of test rabbits caused continuous congestion of the iris as well as redness and swelling [149]. Very slight irritation from inhalation was observed in test animals. This may have been caused by the physical rather than the biological properties of the B.t. formulation tested [8]. Mice survived 1 or more 1-hour periods of breathing mist that contained as many as 6.0 x 10^10 spores B.t. per liter [143].
  • Chronic toxicity: No complaints were made by 8 men after they were exposed for 7 months to fermentation broth, moist bacterial cakes, waste materials, and final powder created during the commercial production of B.t. [143]. Dietary administration of B.t. for 13 weeks to rats at dosages of 8400 mg/kg/day did not produce toxic effects [143]. Some reversible abnormal redness of the skin was observed when 1 mg/kg/day of formulated B.t. product was put on scratched skin for 21 days. No general, systemic poisoning was observed [8].
  • Reproductive effects: There is no indication that B.t. causes reproductive effects [143].
  • Teratogenic effects: There is no evidence indicating that formulated B.t. can cause birth defects in mammals [143,148].
  • Mutagenic effects: B. thuringiensis appears to have mutagenic potential in plant tissue. Thus, extensive use of B.t. on food plants might be hazardous to these crops [143]. There is no evidence of mutagenicity in mammalian species.
  • Carcinogenic effects: Tumor-producing effects were not seen in 2-year chronic studies during which rats were given dietary doses of 8400 mg/kg/day of B.t. formulation [148]. It is unlikely that B.t. is carcinogenic.
  • Organ toxicity: There is no evidence of chronic B.t. toxicity in dogs, guinea pigs, rats, humans, or other test animals.
  • Fate in humans and animals: B.t. does not persist in the digestive systems of mammals that ingest it [149].
The above information can be found a this link: Extoxnet.orst.edu. Extoxnet files are maintained and archived at Oregon State University.

Why Do I Use Bacillus Thuringiensis (bt)?

I have a problem with caterpillars... end of story. I found spraying on a weekly routine desimated the caterpillar population. I no longer had significant damage holes in my cabbages and kales. Well, not from the caterpillars anyway. It found it to be effective and I believe from my research it is safe. It is inexpensive, easily mixed and sprayed.

My Nemesis 
This guy has been my nemesis in the garden for years. I was hesitant in using Bt because I figured I could hand pick them or try other means and I thought it was a poison. What I discovered was that I just didn't have the time to be as diligent as I needed. Hand picking helped when I could do it. But, I would miss 2 week periods at times and that's all the time my nemesis needed to hatch, grow and damage. I also opened, as another tactic,  the garden planting area up a bit more to let in birds and other insects. This actually helped with slugs but I didn't notice any effect on the caterpillar's damage. I just ended up planting less crops. So I was losing on 2 ends. I planted less and the caterpillars continued to damage my crops.
I'm writing this Knol with the hope you take the time to research Bt and learn that it is not a man-made insecticide or poison. It is soil dwelling bacterium that is cultivated and used as a pesticide. The hardest time I had using Bt was finding it in garden shops. I could find poisons and insecticides but Bt was hard to find and often expensive when I did find it. The best way to find it is on-line.

How to Use Bascillus Thuringiensis in Your Garden?

I am going to make this simple. It is this easy.
  1. Purchase Bt via mail order or at from your local garden shop.
  2. Reading the directions for mixing.
  3. Purcahse an inexpensive 1 gallon sprayer.
  4. Mix Bt with water the day you are going to use it. (It is not effective to let it sit mixed for days.)
  5. Spray the outer and underside of your plants weekly.
  6. You may need to do it a 2nd time, in a week, if there is excess rain.
  7. Only spray the plants that are prone to caterpillars.

If you have knowledge about the caterpillers and moths in your area, you only need to spray during their active periods. I found it easier to start spraying in May in my area and to continue through August.

My Other Gardening Knols

Join My Garden Blog:The Rusted Garden
Sometimes the links below, by title, are defunct for unknown reasons.
Here is a main link, if one below is not active. This link is always active My Gardening Knols Direct Link 



My Gardening Recipe Knols




Wednesday, December 14, 2011

KNOL: Ten Things About Tomatoes

This entry is a copy from a KNOL I wrote found at Google. Google will be discontinuing the KNOL's platform and I am in the process of storing them on my blog. Please enjoy the article. I have about 50 coming over to this blog.

This is a very light Knol that provides 10 important pieces of information about tomatoes. They are great reminders for the weathered gardener and highly useful for the new gardener. Enjoy!


Ten Things About Tomatoes

by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C

Join My Garden Blog:The Rusted Garden


Tomato Thing One: Two Types of Tomatoes

Determinate vs Indeterminate

There are two types of tomato plants. A tomato plant is either a determinate plant or indeterminate plant. A determinate tomato grows to a set height and stops growing. The fruits mature all at once and the plant dies shortly after the fruits mature. This determinate type of tomato is great for getting the first round of tomatoes from your garden and they do well in containers. The indeterminate tomato continues to grow and grow until frost. It sets fruit throughout the season. Only frost or disease will stop an indeterminate tomato from producing. Think of it this way, a determinate tomato grows to a predetermined size. The plant label that comes with your plant when you buy it will tell you if it is a determinate or indeterminate tomato.

Tomato Thing Two: Plant Them Deep

It's a Vine

A tomato is a vine. When you plant them, you want to plant them deep in the ground. When you buy a tomato they should be 8 to 12 inches tall. You should plant the tomato to at least a third or half its height. If the tomato is 12 inches tall then plant 4-6 inches of the plant stem below ground. Why? Because a tomato is a vine that will set roots from any part of the stem, if the stem is below the ground or on the soil. A strong deep root system leads to a stronger plant.

Tomato Thing Three: Planting a Container?

Determinate Tomatoes

The determinate tomato grows to a set height. This makes them the best bet to survive in a pot or container. I recommend buying a very large container. One you can stick your head and shoulders in. A smaller container can work but you really have to keep an eye on watering. If you let the plant dry out, it really messes up the fruit. The fruit will crack. If you over water and then let it dry out and repeat, you will probably see your tomatoes rot from the bottom. This is know as blossom end rot. It is a calcium deficiency and occurs when the roots aren't watered properly and therefore can't absorb nutrients properly. An indeterminate tomato just grows to large for containers.

Tomato Thing Four: Prune Your Plant

They Can't Fair Without Air

Indeterminate tomatoes needs to have air circulating through and around the plant. Poor air circulation leads to disease. As your tomato grows, you should pinch off the leaves nearest to the ground. I try and keep 12 inches between the ground and the the first leaves (sometimes more). Now you can't do this all at once but as the plant grows taller, you should prune the bottom leaves to about 12 inches from the ground. This will allow air to circulate below the plant and make it harder for disease/spores to splash up on the plant. You will also need to prune back shoots/branches from the upper part of the plant. That sometimes means taking off two or three foot pieces of your plant. Painful to do but necassary. Air also needs to circulate through the plant. Air circulation helps keep humid air from sitting around the plant and it helps to dry the plant leaves after watering or a good rain.

Tomato Thing Five: Keep Them Off the Ground


Tomatoes are vines. If you let them sprawl on the ground you will see them root from where ever the vine touches the ground. You will see additional vines growing all over the place and end up with a mess. Sure you will get tomatoes but you will also increase the chances of your tomatoes getting diseases like blights. A 6-foot stake is the best way to train your tomatoes to grow upwards and stay off the ground.

Tomato Thing Five: Fertilizing

Feeding Your Friends

You know what happens if you over fertilize a tomato? You get a very happy large green plant with less fruit. I fertilize when the plant is planted and when the plant has been growing about 6-8 weeks. This is mid July in my area. It isn't etched in stone but that is how I do it.  A few table spoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer deep in the hole and a couple higher in the hole when I plant. I typically give them a half of gallon to gallon sprinkle of Miracle Grow in June. I can't help but feed them. In July I do a side dressing which is tossing some fertilizer on the ground about 6 to 8 inches from the stem. I drop a handful. I also give them a big drink of Miracle Grow. After that, fertilizing is done. You just don't want to give them so much nitrogen you end up with a great looking green tomato plant with a couple of tomatoes. Unless you are eating the leaves. If you are container gardening then I recommend feeding them weekly with miracle grow when they are large.

Tomato Thing Six: Early Doesn't Mean Sooner

Warm Weather Plants

Tomatoes are warm weather plants. They need 50 degree nights and 70 degree days to really start growing. You don't need to put plants in early before the temperatures are ready. Putting a tomato out April 10th doesn't mean it will be bigger than a plant you put on on May 1st come the middle of May. Sure, initially it might look bigger but once the heat hits, tomatoes grow. If it is colder in April your plant is just going to sit there in shiver mode and not really grow.  The plant you plant May 1st isn't really at a disadvantage. The bottom line is they will catch up to each other and you don't get fruit any sooner. So wait for the right temperature to plant. But once the temperatures comes, the first one to get them in the ground wins.

Tomato Thing Seven: Water Evenly

Mulch Much Mulch

Two thing can happen with poor watering habits. If your plant gets stressed from too little water and then you soak it, it will develop cracked fruit. If you continually let the ground dry and then over water the plant and let it dry and over water, you'll increase the chances of blossom end rot. Basically, you mess the root system up and the plant can get a calcium deficiency and you end up with blossom end rot. Mulch is your best friend. I use grass clippings. I put down two inches of grass clippings and let it dry out. The next week I put down two more inches and let the clipping dry up and turn brown. I continue this throughout the summer. It is important to let grass clipping dry out before adding more. If you don't, you run the risk of developing smelly grass clippings which creates a bad smelling garden. Water regularly in the morning. I tend to water my plant from the bottom, with a hose, as to not soak the tomato plant leaves or splash mud up. I am always battling blights and mildew. If that isn't  a problem in your area, a sprinkler is fine.

Tomato Thing Eight: Planting Location

Shading Other Plants

Tomatoes get quite large. You want to make sure you plant them in the garden so they don't grow up to shade out other plants. If you reach out both arms to the side and pretend the length of your arms is the garden, you can figure out where to plant the tomatoes. If the sun is mostly where your left hand is then you need to plant the tomatoes way down by your right hand. Get it? Sun mostly to the left of the garden will cause shade to the right side of the plants. Sun to the right of the garden will cause shade to the left side of plants. When in doubt go stand in your garden plot around 2 pm. Pretend your a tomato plant and see which way your shadow falls. I use raised beds and plant my tomatoes so the shade they produce mostly falls outside the box.

Tomato Thing Nine: What the Tomato is VFF or VFTA?

Don't Worry About It

I know that isn't a great answer but they stand for disease resistances. If you don't run into tomato diseases then it doesn't really matter. Unless of course they come up with a tomato that is resistant to late blight. So far no luck. Most of us buy tomatoes from the garden shops and they usually stock the standard varieties that have these resistances. If you are buying seeds from catalogs the catalogs will tell you what the letters stand for. Fusarium and verticillum wilts. See it doesn't help.


Tomato Thing Ten: There Is Never Enough Room

Just One More

If you love tomatoes then you'll agree there is just never enough room to plant all the tomatoes you want. Even if you expand your garden year after year, there seems to be a need for more space. There is always that variety you haven't tried but it's right there within your reach at your local nursery. You wonder if you could squeeze it in. You think you could possibly negotiate another garden bed from your wife. You ponder what you can trade her for a little more space. If you are like me - you buy it and worry about the space later. Remember, 2 plants is plenty of tomatoes for one adult. I can say it. I can write it but I don't think I can come to terms with it. A family of four and a garden of twelve tomato plants last year... I know I can get in thirteen this year. Enjoy!


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KNOL: How to Build a Hot-House Tomato Cage (In Pictures)

This entry is a copy from a KNOL I wrote found at Google. Google will be discontinuing the KNOL's platform and I am in the process of storing them on my blog. Please enjoy the article. I have about 50 coming over to this blog.

I have over 50 garden videos. Why not join my Youtube channel? Video on how to build a hot-house tomato cage Video on how to protect you vegetables from frost I just built a hot-house tomato cage and put in my 50 day tomato. I should have tomatoes in May. This Knol will give you a basic design to create a warm micro-climate around your tomato plant. The benefit? You can start planting 4-6 week early. It is April 3rd here and I have a tomato in the ground

How to Build a Hot-House Tomato Cage: A Slide-Show

by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C

Check Out the Slide-Show

It is a pretty basic set-up. The slide-show will let you run through the idea visually. The hot-house is built out of a wire tomato cage and Saran Wrap. A milk jug spray painted black is used to help regulate the night time temperature.

Step One:

After preparing the garden bed, plant your tomato. You will notice some newspaper showing through the soil in the first slide. I covered my garden soil with about three layers of newspaper. I do this to create a barrier for disease prevention. After I laid the news paper down, I added about 2-3 inches of store bought garden soil on the paper. The cage goes right over the tomato. You now have the frame.
The micro-climate will also keep humidity around the plant because it is a sealed environment. Humidity and little air circulation can lead to disease. It is important you take precautions.

Step Two:

Spray paint the milk jug black after filling it to the top with water. That will help it absorb the sun's heat. The heat will radiate out of the water during the night. Place the container on the north side of the cage, right up against it. You don't want the shadow of the milk jug to block the sun from the tomato. The north side of the cage (where the sun comes up) will prevent this from happening. Wrap the plastic wrap around the cage and the milk jug as in the picture. Do two full wraps on the bottom and start working your way up. Make sure you overlap each level with at least 1/3 of plastic wrap. You don't want any gaps. I suggest overlapping by 1/2 the width of the wrap.

Step Three:

Once you get to the top, leave enough plastic wrap to fold over the wire on the top of the cage. Do two wraps around the top and cut the plastic wrap. Put on arm inside the cage and keep the other on the outside. Squeeze your hands together and pat and seal all the wrapped plastic together. At this point you don't have a top cover on it. Pile some dirt around the bottom of the cage to fill any gaps beneath the plastic wrap. You want a closed bottom. Exept for the top, you made a closed environment or hot-house.

Step Four:

Now you are going to cover half the top with plastic wrap. Simply lay a large sheet across the top and make sure it overlaps about a foot on each side. Secure it with another wrap around the outside of the cage. The picture will give you a good idea of how it looks. The open half is the vent. It should always be open on sunny days. You don't want to bake your tomato plant.

Step Five:

Now you have to build the other flap. This is the cold weather flap and night time flap. You need to close the top completely at night until the nights are in the fifties. Take a look at the picture. Wrap the plastic wrap around the cage one time an leave about three extra feet on it. Cut the plastic wrap and just tuck the extra wrap around the cage on put it in the cage. Each night or on cold days you will close the flap over the and seal the top. In the morning on warmer sunny days you have to make sure you open the flap. As I said, if you don't, you will over heat your tomato. Place a small rock on top of the cage at night. This will help keep the flap closed.

Close the flap around 5 pm. This will allow some warmth to build up in the cage.

This basic design will help you get a tomato in the ground sooner. It will battle light frost and keep the tomato protected. Once you get into regular nights of fifty degrees, its time to remove the plastic wrap. This isn't just for frost protection. It create a micro-climate that is much warmer then the environment and the regular heat gets your tomato growing and moving toward maturity.


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

KNOL: Starting Tomatoes Indoors (In Pictures)

This entry is a copy from a KNOL I wrote found at Google. Google will be discontinuing the KNOL's platform and I am in the process of storing them on my blog. Please enjoy the article. I have about 50 coming over to this blog.

Tomatoes grace just about every gardener's garden. There are thousands of tomato varieties. The best way to tap into the world of tomatoes is by purchasing seeds from catalogs. Perhaps you want heirloom tomatoes or you are eager to try the newest hybrid.  Starting tomatoes indoors is a hundred times easier than deciding which tomato variety you want to grow. Be warned. Once you begin to start your tomatoes indoors, you will need to expand your garden.  It's nothing to start 10 or 20 types of tomatoes indoors. It's another thing finding room for them in your garden.

Starting Tomatoes Indoors (In Pictures)

by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C
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What do tomato transplants look like?

Here are several varieties of tomatoes under my grow-lights. I will have a future Knol on growing transplants under artificial lights. You do not have to have this elaborate set-up to grow tomato seedlings indoors. You can use your windowsill and the sun.

Tomato seedlings under my grow-lights. April 2009

What supplies do I need to grow tomato seedlings indoors?

You will need:

  1. Starting soil. I have Miracle Grow potting soil with fertilize in the picture.
  2. A container to hold your soil.
  3. Cello trays to plant the seeds.
  4. A tray to hold your cello trays.
  5. Styro-foam cups or other containers to hold your tomatoes once they grow.
  6. Tomato seeds.

Seedling supplies. April 2009

How do I get started growing tomato seedlings indoors?

Fill the cello trays with potting soil to start. Press the soil down in the tray and fill cells again to the top. You want to makes sure the soil is firm. Place 4 seeds per section in the cello tray. Typically, there are 9 section to a tray.

Each tray will hold 36 seeds. That is more seedlings than you will need. You need to label what's in your tray. I use little building sticks. You can place one stick per tray or 1 per section if you plant multiple varieties in a tray. Simply press the seeds down with the tip of a pencil (or something similiar)  about 1/4 of an inch into the soil and lightly cover. That is it for planting.

The cello trays have holes in the bottom of each cell. You will need to water your plants from the bottom. If you water them from the top you will wash the seed deeper into the tray and run the risk of plant disease (damping off). You need to put your cello tray into a container. Fill the container with an inch of water every couple of days. When you buy cello trays at your garden center, I recommend buying kits that come with trays.

Four seeds to a cell. April 2009

What do I do now that the seeds are planted?

You set them by the window and make sure they don't dry out. When the seedlings reach 1 - 2 inches, you will need to transplant them into another container. Tomatoes will germinate within 7 days. They grow quickly.

My Tomatoes and other seedlings. April 2009

My basic transplant station. April 2009

How do I transplant my tomatoes into other containers?

I use 8 oz. Styro-foam cups as my containers. You need to poke 3 holes in the bottom of the cups before you transplant the tomato seedlings. You should continue to water the plants from the bottom. Although, at this point, you can water them from the top and not risk disease. If you choose to water from the top, the holes become drainage holes. So, do not forget the holes.

Gently pull a group of 4 tomatoes from your cello tray (one cell) and tap the root-ball in your hand. You MUST do this when the soil is more dry then wet. You will need to plan ahead and make sure the soil is mostly dry. Wet soil makes it much too difficult to separate the root clusters. Dry dry dry soil.

Gentle hold one tomato seedling and pull another away from the root cluster. If your soil is dry this will happen quite easily.

Gentle separate the seedlings. April 2009

Fill your cup about 1/3 of the way and place your seedling into the cup. Continue holding your seedling and fill the cup the rest of the way. You are planting one seedling per container or cup.

Setting the transplant in a cup. April 2009

Notice you buried over 2/3 of the tomato seedling. You want to do this. A tomato is a vine and roots will grow out from the stem that is below the soil.

Filling the cup to the leaves. April 2009

Don't forget to label your cup or container. I place my newly transplanted seedlings into foil baking trays. You can find them at your local grocery store. Again, I am using my grow-lights but you can keep yours by the window. Since you have been growing them by the window the are ready for the outdoor sun. If it is warm enough, they can go outside for a bit of fresh air.

Transplanted tomato seedlings under my grow-lights. April 2009

When do I plant my tomatoes in the garden?

You can plant them when the nights are mostly fifty degrees. There is no rush. Putting them out early won't matter in the big picture. Keep them into the cups and bring them indoors at night while the nights are forty-five degrees or less. Standard tomato growing weather is fifty degree nights and seventy degree days.


Try My Google Gardening Search Box

I tweaked this search box to better reference all things gardening. It will provide you with highly specific searches beyond what a typical Google search can do.
It is located on the top page of my Garden Blog: The Rusted Garden. Try it and join my Blog while you are there. Thanks.

My Other Gardening Knols

Join My Garden Blog:The Rusted Garden
Sometimes the links below, by title, are defunct for unknown reasons.
Here is a main link, if one below is not active. This link is always active My Gardening Knols Direct Link 


My Gardening Recipe Knols