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!”
By Sarah Story, Citizen Events Editor 05/16/2013
Shrimp, barbecue and ice cream definitely go together this weekend in Henrico! The kids might even enjoy a tea party with Alice and the Mad Hatter. Other fun events for the family are Imagination Richmond and May Play Day. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Children perform during the India Spring Fest, held April 27-28 at the Hindu Center in Glen Allen. The event featured traditional Indian food, shopping and entertainment for children and adults. > Read more.
Spirited Art Richmond held a painting class May 5 for Hanover Habitat for Humanity families to paint their own artwork as a final touch for their new homes. Among first-time homeowners painting The Klimt Circle tree (which doubles as a ‘family tree’) were (left to right) Janet Payne, Gwen Stockman of Hanover Habitat and Payne’s daughter, Ashley Payne. Spirited Art is located in Short Pump at West Broad Village. > Read more.
Popular Short Pump spot offers upscale comfort, flavors
The Wine Loft opened in West Broad Village in January 2010, offering a full bar with wine, beer, spirits and a kitchen with tapas-style snacks. It offers a seasonal patio area along Whittall Way. Its walk-in wine “humidor” in plain view from the bar offers more than 85 wines by the glass ($6-$65) and about 250 by the bottle ($28 and up), with some emphasis on Italian wines. Culinary trained chefs plus partnership with Culinard (Culinary program of Virginia College). > Read more.
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