Friday, August 16, 2013

Tomato update: From seed to BLT

I've been so busy this summer, I haven't taken the time to give an update on my first-ever successful attempt at growing tomatoes from seed.  As you can see, it's been a pretty good year for tomatoes, even though we've only had 1.5 inch of rain since mid-June.  I run the soaker hose once a week to give the tomatoes a good 1 inch of water or so, and I think that's helped.  I posted the photo above on my Facebook page to show my mom, and one of my friends commented: "Those tomatoes aren't ripe yet!"  After a bad fruit fly infestation last year, I learned it's best to pick my tomatoes when they're just turning color, and then let them ripened on my kitchen counter.

Back in April, I started roma and orange blossom tomato seeds using a growlight and coconut fiber biodegradable trays, which I bought at Earl May.  If I remember right, the photo below was taken just three weeks after the seeds were planted. So far, everything was looking good.  I kept the trays watered, but let them dry out a little bit between waterings to let the roots get stronger.  I also fertilized them about every 2 weeks with a fertilizer specifically for seedlings.

Can you spot my garden gnome behind the tomatoes?

In mid-May, I finally got the courage to take these babies out of their indoor environment and started "hardening" them off by placing the tray under my back porch awning.  Everything was looking good until I accidentally left them outside overnight, and we got a 2.5 inch pounding rain.  When I woke up, the tomato seedlings were squashed and soaking from the heavy rain. So I dumped the excess water off and placed the seedlings in my enclosed back porch to let them dry out, but still get used to cooler temps.

A week later, I planted the the seedlings. They were pretty spindly, but the roots were so strong, they were poking through the coconut fiber "pots."  I planted the seedlings directly in the ground, without removing the pots.

Fast forward about a month later, and it's hard to believe this little seedling grew up to be a 4-foot-tall tomato plant.  This year, I'm trying to keep up the tomato plants from getting too big, rather than setting fruit, so I'm clipping the vines back every couple weeks or so.  I haven't been as careful about it as I should, but so far, the tomatoes are doing a good job setting fruit.  You might notice in the photo below that I mulch my veggie garden with grass clippings.  I also lay down a layer of newspaper underneath to help weeds from poking up.

This photo was taken in mid-June. The tomato plants are much larger now.
So that pretty much sums up my tomato growing season.  The tomatoes are actually starting to wind down because of the cooler weather this August. Oh, and the lack of rain. Can you tell I'm annoyed because we missed the rains again today?!

So how's your garden growing right now?  Do you have any tomato growing advice?  I've still got a lot to learn.

1 comment:

  1. Nice looking tomatoes! I love the cages. I have the same ones.
    I also grew most of my vegetables from seed. I grew over a hundred and what I din't plant I sold. Each plant I sold for $2 each. If you look through my blog you'll find my posts on gardening. Lots of tips in there. We have had way too much rain this year and everything is slow to ripen. I have made some salsa already but the bulk of the tomatoes are just now ripening. When growing seedlings keep the light as close as possible to keep them from becoming leggy. I also re-pot mine to larger containers.


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