Squash, cucumbers, melons, eggplant, okra, tomatoes and other vegetables in your garden depend on bees to set fruit, so plant yourself some insurance with flowers that will attract them. Bee balm is one of their favorites. As soon as the weather is dependably warm and sunny, you should see the bees visiting your plants. Bee balm is perennial in Zones 4 through 9, so put it in a corner of the garden were it can grow undisturbed. It will multiply, too. If you “deadhead,” or cut off the old blooms when they fade, bee balm will bloom longer.
Vegetable Garden - Tips on Growing Tomato From Seeds
The main crop in some home gardens, and for the home gardener are tomatoes that deliver the taste of summer in every bite. Just a few healthy plants will produce buckets of beautiful Tomatoes loaded with flavor and nutrition. Tomatoes run on warmth, so they are best planted in late spring and early summer except in Zone 10, where they are a fall and winter crop. Choosing varieties can be confusing because there is such a large of selection of seeds to choose from, but it’s a good idea to plant some of each for variety and length of season. Devote a prime, sunny spot for your tomatoes, which will grow into a tall screen of green foliage studded with ripening fruits in mid- to late summer. Tomatoes need at least 8 hours of sun to bring out their best flavors, and you will need to stake, trellis, or cage the sprawling plants to keep them off the ground. Deciding on a support plan before you set out your tomato plants out is suggested.
You can combine fast-maturing varieties with mid and late season, but wait until any danger of frost has passed to transplant your tomatoes.
USDA Hardiness Zone -First Frost Date- Last Frost Date
- Zone 1 -July 15th -June 15th
- Zone 2 -August 15th- May 15th
- Zone 3 -September 15th May 15th
- Zone 4 -September 15th May 15th
- Zone 5 -October 15th April 15th
- Zone 6 -October 15th April 15th
- Zone 7 -October 15th April 15th
- Zone 8 -November 15th March 15th
- Zone 9 -December 15th February 15th
- Zone 10 -December 15th January 31st (sometimes earlier)
- Zone 11 _No frost. No frost.
in a warm, well-lighted area at least 5-7 weeks before last the last frost. Sow Tomato seeds ¼" deep in seed starting formula. Keep evenly moist. Tomato seedlings emerge in 5-8 days at 70º F. Prior to transplanting to the garden, accustom to outdoor conditions by moving to a sheltered place outside for a week.
- Seed Depth: 1/4"
- Soil Temperature for Germ.: 70-90°F
- Days to Germ.: 6-10
- Plant Spacing: 18"-24"
- Full Sun
- Moderate Water
The seedlings to stand 3-4" apart each way if left un staked; 2½" apart each way if staked or grown in cages. Tomatoes need full sun and well drained soil. Did you know that the best time to transplant is on a cloudy day or in the morning or evening hours when the sun is not as intense? And water your tomato seedlings just before you are ready to transplant to help the root ball intact.
Water deeply once a week in dry weather. Cultivate or mulch to control weeds. A trick that we learned from a grower of Hydroponics Tomatoes, that was in the absence of bees, he would flick the tomato flower with your index finger lightly, and this would help in the pollination process.
- Space robust, long-vine, indeterminate varieties about 3 feet apart.
- Stocky determinate plants can be grown at tighter 2-foot spacing.
- A single patio tomato plant will fill an 18-inch-wide container.
- Tomatoes take up nutrients best when the soil pH ranges from 6.2 to 6.8, and they need a constant supply of major and minor plant nutrients. To provide the major nutrients, mix a balanced timed-release or organic fertilizer into the soil as you prepare the holes for planting, and be careful to follow the rates given on the label. At the same time, mix in 3 to 4 inches of compost. The compost will provide minor nutrients and help hold moisture and fertilizer in the soil until it is needed by the plants.
- To quickly increase the root mass of the tomato plants, we recommend soil that is loose and deep planting, so that two-thirds of the plant's stem is buried in moist, loose soil. Cover the ground with 2 to 4 inches of mulch to help suppress weeds and keep the soil evenly moist. You can use straw and or shredded leaves as they make great mulches for tomatoes, or you can use weed-free grass clippings, applied in 1-inch layers every few weeks. Do not apply grass clippings any thicker or they will mat down and prevent water from passing through entirely. If summer droughts are common in your area, use soaker hoses, drip systems or other drought techniques to help maintain the even soil moisture, which is the key to preventing cracked fruits and blossom-end rot. For maximum efficiency and eye appeal, place soaker hoses around the plants and cover with mulch.
- As the summer starts to heat up, some tomatoes will show signs that it is difficult for them to set fruit. Be patient however, and you will start seeing little green tomatoes again when nights begin to cool down. Meanwhile, promptly harvest and remove the ripe tomatoes as to relieve stressed plants of their heavy burden. If you live in an area where summertime temperatures are typically in the 90s, be sure to choose some varieties bred for their ability to set fruit under high temperatures.
- By late summer, plants that began producing early in the season will show signs of exhaustion. It will take but a few minutes to coax out new growth by pruning away withered leaves and branches. Then follow up with liquid fertilizer and treatments for leaf diseases or insects, if needed. If you have humid conditions that are close to the ground, this will create the ideal conditions for fungal diseases like early blight, which causes dark spots to form on the lower leaves. Remove the leaves from the bottom so nothing is touching the ground.
- In mid-summer, big green caterpillars called tomato hornworms eat tomato foliage and sometimes damage fruits as well.
- As your tomatoes begin to ripen, their color changes from vibrant medium-green to a lighter shade, with faint pink or yellow stripes. These "breakers," or mature green tomatoes, can be chopped into Tomato salsa, pickled, or pan-fried into a crispy appetizer. Or you can allow the tomato flavor to become much more complex as the fruits ripen, so you have good reason to wait. The exact signs of ripeness vary with each variety, but the general rule would be for perfectly ripe tomatoes, is that they show deep color yet still feel firm when gently squeezed. Store your picked tomatoes at room temperature indoors, or in a shady, cooler place outside. Never refrigerate tomatoes, because as temperatures get below 55°F, this will cause the precious flavors to break down. Abundant crops can be frozen, canned, or dried for future use.
If you see cracking:
Both radical cracking ( from the stem downward) and concentric cracking( around the stem) is caused when the plant takes up too much water too quickly. As tomatoes begin turning red, their skin becomes less flexible. Uneven watering or rain following a dry period encourages the plant to drink too quickly, thus cracking the fruit in a radical direction. Later in the season cool nights combine with uneven moisture will then cause the concentric cracking. The smallest like cherry tomatoes and tomatoes over 3" in diameter are most susceptible, as well as old varieties. Some of the new tomatoes that are crack resistant would be a Celebrity Tomato.
For your information, you will see the initials below after the name of our Tomatoes. This guide is to inform you of the disease resistance or tolerance to common Tomato problems.
Tomato Disease Terminology
- V- Verticillium Wilt
- F1- Fusarium Wilt Race 1
- F2- Fusarium Wilt Race 2
- N- Root Knot Nematodes
- T- Tobacco Mosaic Virus
- A- Alternaia –Early Blight
- ST- Sternphylium (gray leaf spot)