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NEW TO GROWING TOMATOES?
WHITE FLOWER FARM HAS TIPS TO KEEP THEM HEALTHY
Looking forward to a healthy tomato harvest? White Flower Farm has some simple tips that will help ensure a delicious, bountiful crop.
** It may seem obvious to anyone who has been gardening for a while, but plants should be checked to see if they need watering. Tomato plants grow quickly and use a good amount of water, so look at your plants frequently. Stick your finger about an inch down into the soil. If it feels dry, apply about an inch of water. Aim your hose or watering can at the soil, not the fruit and leaves.
** Watering is especially important if your tomatoes are planted in containers, as they don't have access to rain that's fallen on the ground. During hot sunny weather you may need to water plants in containers daily. Water the soil mix thoroughly, until it has absorbed all it can, and water runs out the bottom of the pot.
** Also, watering in the morning or right when you get home allows time for the foliage to dry before the cooler night temperatures arrive. Cool, damp leaves provide favorable conditions for a number of tomato diseases.
** Be on the lookout for “flagging” – an early sign of wilting. When stems and leaves become limp and droopy like a flag, your plant is calling out for water. You may notice flagging during very hot or dry summer weather.
** Tomato plants can be overwatered, so do not water if the soil is wet (always test the soil first with your finger). As your plants start producing fruit, less water is actually better. The flavor everyone loves in the fruit will be more concentrated if the plants receive less water when the fruit is ripening. Excess watering or rain can also cause the fruit to swell and crack the skins.
** While tomato plants are actively growing, give them fertilizer (following the manufacturer's instructions) every few weeks until fruit begins to form. Fertilize tomato plants grown in containers as well, as every time you water, some nutrients will wash out the bottom of the pots. Plants can also be foliar fed throughout the season with a kelp- and/or fish-based product, but avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, which promote lush, leafy growth instead of fruit production.
** Make sure you tie up the plants' heaviest limbs to prevent them from breaking once the maturing fruit gets heavy. Use soft twine (or 1-inch-wide strips torn from old sheets) looped in a figure eight around the stem and a stake or plant cage. Plant leaves can be thinned a bit if they are blocking sun from the fruits. Cut off a few of the leaves with garden scissors.
** Most gardeners prune tomato plants to control branching and to focus the plant's energy on fruit production. Use garden shears or scissors to remove young side shoots (branches that appear in the angle between the stem and a leaf) on the stem below the first flower cluster. How much you prune after that is personal choice. Tomato varieties that are "indeterminate" keep growing all summer long and can take up a lot of space, so additional pruning may be helpful for those -- allow a few side shoots to develop above the first flower cluster, and remove others.
** We know you can't wait to taste your homegrown tomatoes but be patient when deciding if they are ready to be picked. If the tomato fruit is hard to pull from the vine, it's likely not ripe! In general, the larger the fruit, the more days it takes to mature on the vine. An early fruiting variety can be ready in 60 days from the date you put the plant in the garden, but you may need to wait 80 or more days from transplanting for a large beefsteak tomato to ripen to perfection in the hot summer sun.
By following these few simple tips, your tomatoes will be perfect for salads, sandwiches, sauces, drinks, or just for eating straight off the vine. For a summary of this information, visit White Flower Farm's web site (http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/tips-for-growing-tomatoes.html) and watch our video, "Tips on Growing Tomatoes" (http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/video-tips-on-growing-tomatoes.html). Enjoy!
Barb Pierson, the nursery manager at White Flower Farm, is available for interviews upon request, as are other experts.
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White Flower Farm is a family-owned nursery located in northwest Connecticut. Since 1950, they have been gathering, evaluating, growing, and selling a wide range of annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines, bulbs, and houseplants representing the very best varieties from around the world. Plants shipped are true to name, free of disease, and in prime condition for growing. While in the area, stop by White Flower Farm with its five acres of display gardens, or visit www.whiteflowerfarm.com, where you will also find helpful gardening information including a how-to video library. Join our E-mail list for gardening advice and tips, From the Farm monthly newsletter, announcement of events at the White Flower Farm Store, and special offers not in our catalogues or on our Web site. White Flower Farm -- we make your garden grow.