In the garden
Tips for growing tomatoes
Tomatoes, say the folks at the Burpee Seed Company, are America’s favorite vegetable. Fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes are delicious. The lycopene they contain is good for your heart. And, provided they are properly cared for, a standard tomato plant can yield 10 to 15 pounds or more of fruit.
In Central Virginia tomatoes are usually transplanted into the garden in early May, but even now you have time to plant tomatoes since the growing season stretches into early October.
Once tomato plants are established in the garden, good care involves keeping the plant’s foliage off the ground, fertilizing, and providing adequate water consistently.
Even if you’ve staked or caged your tomatoes, once plants are about three feet tall you may need to remove all the growth from the bottom sin to ten inches. This improves air circulation and helps fight diseases such as early blight.
And you may want to sucker your plants. Suckering involves pinching out the shoots that develop in the crotch joints of branches. They don’t produce fruit and can take energy from the rest of the plant. According to the Extension Service, gardeners using stakes usually sucker, those using cages don’t.
And now that the ground has warmed up, apply a layer of mulch around your plants.
“Mulching is a very good cultural practice,” says Henrico Extension Agent Lisa Sanderson. “Mulching helps keep soil that can contain pathogens detrimental to the plant from splashing up on it, reduces weeds, and helps ensure adequate moisture.” Shredded newspaper covered with grass clippings makes good mulch that will decay over the growing season and can be tilled in to the soil in the fall, adding organic matter.
Tomatoes need moisture. While plants are developing, water them deeply and regularly, up to twice weekly depending on rain. Watering early in the day and using soaker-hose or drip irrigation saves water and helps ensure water won’t contribute to fungus problems.
When plants start setting fruit, inconsistent or inadequate watering can cause tomatoes to crack or get blossom end rot, a dark spot at the blossom end of the fruit that can cover half the tomato. Blossom end rot can also result from a calcium deficiency.
Tomatoes often require fertilizer. “We recommend fertilizing in response to a soil test report,” says Sanderson. She recommends incorporating organic matter and a fertilizer when you plant your tomatoes.
“Read the label and follow the instructions,” says Sanderson. “Over-fertilizing doesn’t benefit the plant, and it contaminates groundwater.”
A number of different diseases can affect your plants, but many of the hybrids offer resistance to some of these diseases. Good pictures are available on the web to help you identify problems. Call the Master Gardener Helpline at 501-5160 to discuss possible remedies which can include treatment or eradication.
Spider mites, stinkbugs and beetles can also cause problems. Before using chemical pesticides, check with the Extension Office for current recommendations.
Some bugs, like the tomato hornworm, can be removed by hand. “But don’t remove a hornworm that has white cocoons on its back,” says Sanderson. “Those are the pupa of brachonid wasps that have already eaten the hornworm on the inside, and the wasps are beneficial insects in your garden!”
Henrico County Recreation and Parks will present “Red, White, and Lights” at Meadow Farm Museum/Crump Park July 4.
Henrico County has hosted a Fourth of July celebration annually since 1981, but this year’s event will offer a later start time and expanded hours and be highlighted by new entertainment.
The free event will begin at 4:30 p.m. and will feature the Richmond Symphony, a laser-light show, patriotic performances, and family activities. > Read more.
The Tuckahoe Family YMCA and ReEstablish Richmond will host the third-annual Refugee Community Resource Fair Saturday, June 18, from 10 a.m. to noon at the YMCA, 9211 Patterson Avenue in Henrico. The event is designed to provide refugees in the region information about jobs, local businesses, housing, health care, education and more.
As part of its strategic plan, the YMCA of Greater Richmond works to identify, address and eliminate economic, geographic and cultural barriers. > Read more.
For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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CalendarThe Goochland Chapter of Virginia Oath Keepers, serving Henrico, Hanover, Louisa, Goochland and Powhatan, will hold its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 5 at the Goochland Public… Full text