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!”
The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.
A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”
The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.
The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.
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