~ Rick Sommer's Tomato Growing Tips

Rick's Tomato Growing Tips

Seed selection.

I spend a lot of time thumbing through seed catalogs. My favorite suplier is Tomato Grower's Supply Company. They have more than 500 varieties of tomatoes. To see what I'm growing this year, click here.
The Mini Greenhouse

This is where it all begins. My greenhouse has soil heating cables. Note that sufficient warmth around the clock is what is need to get seeds off to a good start. Warm sunny days might not do it if the nights are too cold.

I usually start my seeds in mid-March. I plant them in 4-inch pots with a special seed-starter planting mix. My mini greenhouse holds 64 plants, comfortably.
Soil Prepartion

Proper preparation of the soil is very important.
Trench planting

Trench planting is a special technique for the advanced tomato grower. It involves planting in the ground horizontly, and bending the stems so only the top portion is above the surface. Roots will develop along the length of the stem, forming a more massive root system, capable of supporting a larger plant. Also, more of the root mass will be near the surface, which means the roots will be warmer (this induces plant growth). Of course, having a substantial root system that reaches several feet below the surface is important for healthy plants, and trench planting is meant to contribute to that. A large healthy plant above the surface requires a correspondingly substantial root system below the surface.

I recommend that you bury the horizontal stem at least three inches below the surface. It is extremely important not to ever walk on the soil above the horizontal portion of the stem. Generally, walking too near your tomato plants will damage your root systems. It's good to have well defined walkways sufficiently close to the plants for tending and harvesting, but no closer than necessary. Establishing a walkway with stepping stones is one recommended way to help insure that no one will step too close to the plants.

Pictured here are the roots of one of my plants (Sun Gold) from last year; on this one about 14 inches of stem was buried horizontally. When it was full grown, the length of the stem on this plant (above the surface) was over 13 feet. It grew to the top of my 8 foot stakes, and then along horizontal bamboo polls on my overhead trellis.

Wall-o-Water Gardening

One day I will put more here about "Wall 'o Water"s. These things are like mini-greenhouses right in the garden that are used for getting an early start with your plants. They have baffles that are filled with water. I used them in '94 and '95 with success. In recent years I haven't had my act together early enough in the season to make use of these.
OK, that's as far as I've gotten...

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Last modified: Sun Apr 14 15:00:47 PDT 2002