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Keep Tomatoes from Cracking and Splitting

Cracking and splitting are one of the most common problems when growing tomatoes. The good news: those unsightly cracks aren’t caused by pests or disease!

Tomatoes split open when the fruit outpaces the growth of the skin — usually after a heavy rain. The bad news: split tomatoes can introduce bacteria into the fruit and cause them to rot.

But wait, there is good news: this is an easy problem to remedy and you can start now.

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How to Reduce Tomato Splitting:

1. Water: Water tomato plants once a week with about 1-2” of water. Keeping them regularly watered reduces the chance they will be shocked by a hard rain.

2. Mulch: Mulch does wonders for all plants, but especially for preventing cracking tomatoes. Add a layer of mulch 2-3” thick around plants to hold moisture.

3. Feed: Fertilize tomatoes with organic Tomato-tone every other week during the growing season. Fertilizer keeps the soil healthy so plants produce as many tomatoes as possible.

4. Location: Growing tomatoes in raised beds or containers with drainage holes will lessen the problem because heavy rain will drain away faster in the loose soil.

5. Pick: As a last minute fix, you can always go out after a heavy rain and pick any almost ripe or ripe tomatoes.

While it may be too late now, you can plant varieties that are less likely to crack. Look for things like ‘crack-free’ in the description.

Looking for more info on tomatoes, such as easy tomatoes to growhybrid tomatoes or non-red tomatoesplease visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Plant Fruits and Veggies in Containers

Short on space? Grow fruits and vegetables in galvanized buckets! Laura from Garden Answer shows you how to plant the perfect companion plants for containers. Try zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and marigolds or raspberries with strawberries.

July Garden To-Do

Lazy days of summer? Think again! July can be a busy month in the garden.

While watering and deadheading may seem like tedious tasks, harvesting and enjoying the bounty are the reward for months of hard work.

Here are seven things to do in the garden this month.

summer gardening tips, garden checklist, summer garden

1. Follow the Watering Rule

Follow the primary rule of summer watering to ensure garden plants get the right amount of water. Water thoroughly and deeply in the morning by making pools in the soil around the roots. Deep watering allows roots to grow deeper and stronger, making them less likely to dry up and die.

When you water will depend on your weather. Check dryness by touching the soil. It should be moist at least 1” below the surface.

Water containers and hanging baskets daily until water runs from the drainage holes.

2.Pick, Eat and Replant

You can finally enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Harvest tomatoes, peppers, peas, carrots, cauliflower, beans, broccoli, leeks, onions, eggplants, cucumbers, squash, Brussels sprouts, kale, lettuce, melons, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, pumpkins and rutabagas.

Harvest tree and vine fruits when they are able to be gently plucked or twisted from their stems. Berries, apples and stone fruits should all be ready for picking in July.

Pick, dry and freeze herbs for use later in the year.

Sow seeds of cool-season crops such as greens and root vegetables for harvesting throughout August and September. Plant garlic for harvest next season.

Prune tomato suckers weekly and cut off any leaves growing below the lowest ripening fruit trusses to improve air circulation and prevent diseases. Thin fruit trees for a more robust harvest.

3. Plants Need to Eat, too

Continue to feed hanging baskets, container gardens and faded annuals with liquid fertilizer Bloom! every 2 to 4 weeks.

Vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers are heavy feeders. Continue to feed every 2 weeks with organic fertilizers Tomato-tone or Garden-tone.

Feed roses monthly through the summer with Rose-tone.

Houseplants are actively growing now and will benefit from monthly feedings of Grow!.

summer gardening tips, garden checklist, summer garden

4. Continue to Create a Safe Paws Lawn

Using an organic lawn food, as well as organic mulch will eliminate the hazards that chemical fertilizers, pesticides and synthetic mulches present to you, your family and pets. July is the time to feed your lawn with the summer revitalizer from our annual feeding program.

Water lawn regularly, slowly and deeply. Mow to 3″ to protect from summer heat.

5.Keep an Eye out for Pests

Watch for insect or disease damage as the weather gets hotter and plants become more stressed.

Beetles, aphids, slugs, snails and spider mites are just a few of the pests that visit your garden in summer. For best solutions ask your local garden center for suggestions and consider the Earth-tone Controls.

Keep an eye out for powdery mildew. Remove any affected leaves to prevent further spread.

6. Weed, weed, weed

Clear weeds regularly, as they fight your plants for nutrients and water. Plus, you’ll want to pull before they have a chance to flower and go to seed. Otherwise, you’ll fight even more weeds next season.

Cover freshly weeded beds with a layer of compost or mulch to conserve water and blanket weeds reducing their spreading.

summer gardening tips, garden checklist, summer garden

7. Prune and Deadhead

Prune summer flowering shrubs as soon as the blossoms fade. Deadhead annuals to promote more growth. Pinch fall blooming flowers such as coneflower and asters in mid-July to promote a fall garden full of color.

Try to hold off on planting anything new until the fall as the hot temperatures and dry conditions can strain young roots. And you’ll benefit because most stores  offer major end of season sales. If you do plant or transplant, make sure to fill the hole with Bio-tone starter plus and keep well-watered.

Bonus: Enjoy! Take time to slow down and enjoy your garden with friends and family. We sure will be!

Tomato Woes – How to Solve Common Tomato Diseases

No other flavor in the garden can compete with sun-ripened tomatoes! Just seeing their bright, shiny color emerge gets us giddy!

We want to make sure you get to experience the joy of your homegrown, golden delights this year.

So, if you spot a worrisome sign on your tomatoes, here’s how to identify and fix it – the organic, natural way!

Dr. Tom A. To: How to Identify and Fix Common Tomato Diseases and Problems

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Photo courtesy of Dwight Sipler.

The Mark of Dark Spots. First, you’ll see tiny spots on tomatoes’ lower leaves, usually after the first fruit has set. From there, the spots grow larger and begin to look like a target. That’s early blight.

To fix, remove infected leaves as well as lower leaves. Water in the morning to prevent further spread of this fungus. Low nitrogen levels often cause early blight, so feed with Tomato-tone monthly.

Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Photo courtesy of Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

The Bruise Blues. If small, sunken spots or what looks like bruises appear on your ripe tomatoes, that’s anthracnose. This fungus emerges as the weather gets hot and humid – usually 80° or warmer.

So, harvest ripe tomatoes as soon as possible. These are safe to eat if you cut off the bruises. Then water tomatoes in the morning.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden.

So Many Spots. If tiny, greyish-brown dots cover your tomato leaves, Septoria leaf spot is to blame. Soon, leaves will fall off. Though, a harvest will usually still happen.

To remedy, remove all infected leaves. Then apply a copper fungicide – if you’re organic gardening.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Brown Bottom. See circular brown spots on the bottom of your half-grown tomatoes? That’s blossom-end rot, which is usually caused by a lack of calcium in the soil. Blossom end rot should only happen to a few tomatoes early in the season, not the whole bunch.

To fix, use an organic tomato fertilizer with calcium.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Photo courtesy of Victor M. Vicente Selvas

Built to Wilt. Wilting, curling leaves could be bad news for your tomatoes. If paired with stunted grown or browning veins or blotches, your tomatoes have Fusarium or Verticillium wilts. These diseases are caused by a super vicious fungus in the soil.

And, there’s no cure for it. Remove and rid your garden of these tomatoes. Do not compost. Then, solarize the soil to kill the fungus. Otherwise, when you plant veggies in the same area, they, too, will get this disease for the next 4-6 years.

Next time, when you’re growing tomatoes, select disease-resistant varieties to avoid some of these common problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Much Water Do My Tomato Plants Need?

Imagine having a successful, bountiful tomato harvest every season — juicy, red tomatoes ready for the kitchen.

The good news? You can! Tomato care isn’t hard.

When it comes to growing tomatoes in your organic vegetable garden, the secret is in the soil. Maintaining consistent soil moisture is crucial for a successful harvest.

When, and how frequently, you should water your tomato plants depends on the variety, size and location.

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Start Your Seedlings

When starting tomatoes from seed, the soil can dry out quickly since seedlings are typically in small containers or trays. Check soil daily to ensure it has not dried out.

However, seedlings require very little water. Use a spray bottle to mist seedlings and keep just the top of the soil moist.

If the soil becomes too wet, move the seedlings to an area with increased air flow and hold off on watering again until needed. Never let seedlings sit in a puddle of water.

As seedlings begin to sprout and grow, they will need more water. If the soil in the tray dries in less than 24 hours, it might be time to move your seedlings to the garden or a larger container.

The best way to give your tomatoes the care they need is to closely monitor the plants and the soil moisture weather.

Growing in the Garden

When you plant tomatoes right in the ground, the roots can extend deep into the soil as they seek out water. Water newly planted tomatoes well to make sure soil is moist and ideal for growing.

Early in the growing season, watering plants daily in the morning. As temperatures increase, you might need to water tomato plants twice a day. Garden tomatoes typically require 1-2 inches of water a week.

Container Tomato Plants

Tomato plants grown in containers need more water than garden tomatoes. Soil in containers heats up faster which leads to more water evaporation.

A good rule of thumb for containers is to water until water runs freely from the bottom. Water in the morning and check the soil moisture levels again in the afternoon. If soil feels dry about 1 inch below the surface, it’s time to water again.

Keep Tomatoes Well Fed

Adding organic mulch to tomato plants reduces evaporation in the soil. That means less watering, so you can save time and resources.

Add Espoma’s organic Tomato-tone, a slow release premium plant food, for bigger, healthier roots that can withstand a little drought and excess heat.

There are many factors that affect how much water tomato plants need, such as weather conditions and the size and growth rate of the plant. Every plant is different! The best way to give your tomatoes the care they need is to closely monitor the plants and the soil moisture weather.

Visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Blossom-End Rot

You’re on your way to growing the perfect tomatoes. Once you’ve selected your favorite varieties, planted and cared for the seedlings, all that’s left is to take a bite into your first harvest.

But wait. That tomato doesn’t look so appetizing.

If a dark, water soaked spot has formed on your tomato you may have blossom-end rot. This problem is likely caused by an imbalance of calcium in the plant. You may also see this on peppers, squash, cucumbers and melons. The spot enlarges and darkens rapidly as fruits develop. Large spots will dry out and appear to be leathery.

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Tips to Keep Blossom End Rot Away

  • Maintain consistent soil moisture throughout the growing season. When the weather is dry, water at least twice a week and moisten the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches.
  • Plant tomatoes in warm soil. Seedlings planted in cold soil are likely to have limited nutrient uptake.
  • Fertilize with Tomato-Tone to make sure plants are getting the nutrients they need.
  • Amend soil to maintain soil pH at or near 6.5.
  • Add a layer of mulch to minimize evaporation and help maintain consistent soil moisture. Remember not to volcano mulch.

The reasons are many as to why the plant may not be able to take up enough calcium to support the fruit, but most lie in the soil. The best way to prevent blossom end rot is to have a soil test done before planting to determine if the soil has adequate calcium.

Other reasons include:

1. Fluctuations in soil moisture

2. Excess of nitrogen in the soil

3. Root damage

4. Soil pH that’s either too high or too low

5. Soil that’s too cold

6. Soil that’s high in salts

Unfortunately there’s no use saving these tomatoes. Pick off damaged fruit as soon as you notice the rot and compost them.

Visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks. Choosing tomatoes to plant? Check out the easiest tomatoes to growhybrid tomatoes and non-red tomatoes.

Tomato Suckers: What Do With Them

Tomatoes are one of the easiest things to grow in your organic garden. Plant, feed, water and eat!

Yet a few simple tricks will help you be more successful and produce a ton of fruit!

Today’s garden tip: What to do with tomato suckers?

First, let’s determine what tomato suckers are. Then, you can choose whether or not to keep them.

What Are Tomato Suckers?

Tomato suckers are small shoots, or leaves, that sprout out from where the stem and the branch of a tomato plant meet. Although relatively harmless to the plant, suckers don’t serve much of a purpose.

They can, however, draw energy away from the main stems, decreasing tomato growth.

How to Prune Tomato Suckers

  1. Keep a close eye on your tomato plants. Eliminate suckers while they are just a small ½” stem.
  2. Remove by simply snapping them off at the stem. If you need to use a tool, use a sharp pruner blade to make a clean cut.
  3. During peak growing season, pull unnecessary suckers and flowers at least once a week.
  4. Pruning is especially important if you are growing indeterminate tomatoes. This variety produces fruits all season long, as opposed to a single harvest. They require more attention and maintenance in order to encourage growth.

Pruning tomato suckers is one of the keys to a successful harvest.

To Prune or Not To Prune…

Some argue that tomato suckers are beneficial because more leaves can lead to more fruit.

This is true, however, less dense tomato plants may produce larger, juicier tomatoes. (Don’t forget, to also use Espoma Organic Tomato-tone to promote growth of plump tomatoes.)

Removing tomato suckers can also decrease risk of disease caused by prolonged moisture. With fewer leaves, plants receive more air and leaves dry quicker. Fewer leaves also provide fewer places for insects to nest and gnaw.

Because suckers can potentially cause more harm to the garden than good, consider pruning those suckers.

To learn more about specific pruning techniques, here is everything you need to know about pruning tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking for more info on tomatoes, such as easy tomatoes to growhybrid tomatoes or non-red tomatoes, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.

3 Ways to Support Tomatoes

Soon your tiny tomato plants will transform into gigantic bushes. Help them grow by giving them some extra support.

Tomato plants often bend, lean or even break as fruit matures. To help your plant from being damaged, get to know the tomato you’re planting. Indeterminate plants will continue to grow and will benefit from some support, while determinate tomatoes may be just fine on their own.

Use tomato cages, wood or metal stakes, or a trellis to give plants extra support. It’s really a matter of preference which one you choose. The most important thing is that you’re keeping plants off the ground to avoid pests, diseases and rot.

Put supports in your garden before or at the same time you plant tomatoes. Tomatoes will be easier to maintain, prune and harvest.

Stake

Choose 6’ to 8’ tall stakes made of wood, plastic or bamboo. Or, create your own from recycled materials.

  1. Pound stake firmly into the ground, about 12” deep, beside tomato plant.
  2. Tie stalk loosely to the stake using twine as soon as flowers appear. Stakes will bear the weight of plants as they grow, preventing branches from tipping and breaking.
  3. Continue tying plants to stakes as they grow.
  4. Water tomatoes regularly and fertilize with Tomato-tone every two weeks.

Cage

Cages can be purchased at your local garden center and they’re easy to remove at the end of the season and store for next year’s use. Choose metal, wooden or plastic tomato cages. Metal cages often hold up better and last longer, but are prone to rust.

  1. Choose 6’ cages for indeterminate and heirloom varieties.
  2. Plant tomatoes and center the cage over the center of the plant.
  3. Depending on the full grown size of your tomatoes, set cages about 4’ apart.
  4. Push the tomato cage legs into the dirt until the bottom rung is even with the base of the tomato plant.
  5. Water tomatoes regularly and fertilize with Tomato-tone every two weeks.

Trellis

Trellising your tomatoes offers them support and is a great way to maximize small spaces. They keep tomatoes off the ground and allow for easy pruning.

  1. Push two 6’ poles or wooden posts into the ground, about 10’ apart. Poles should not wobble.
  2. Tie wire or twine between posts, adding lines across the top, bottom and middle.
  3. Plant tomatoes along the length of trellis.
  4. Water tomatoes regularly and fertilize with Tomato-tone every two weeks.
  5. As plant grows, train stems by attaching stems to the trellis using twist ties, wires or twine.

Soon your garden will be filled with delicious ripe tomatoes! For more tips on growing tomatoes, check out our organic gardening guide!

Turn Your Tomato Garden Upside Down

Everyone loves growing tomatoes. And tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow.

This summer, put a new twist on growing tomatoes by adding upside-down tomato planters to your organic vegetable garden.

Growing upside down might seem crazy, but it’s actually the perfect solution for those with limited space.

When choosing a variety, opt for smaller tomatoes like cherry or grape or those best suited for containers. Their small size and light weight prevents them from falling off the vines before they’re ready to eat!

early-girl-cropped

Choose Your Container

Purchase a 5-gallon bucket or container to serve as your planter. Drill a hole about 3” big in the bottom of the bucket. If you’re feeling creative, paint the bucket to match your outdoor décor.

Start Planting

Fill 1/3 of the bucket full with Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix.

Carefully remove the tomato plant from its pot and loosen roots from soil.

Turn the bucket onto its side and put the roots of the plant through the hole. Hold the plant in place while turning the bucket upward.

Fill the bucket half way with Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix.

Pick a spot to hang your planter that gets at least six hours of sun daily. The container will get heavier as the tomatoes grow, so be sure to choose a sturdy base.

Water your upside down planter regularly. And fertilize with Espoma’s Tomato-tone, a premium plant food formulated specifically for growing plump and juicy tomatoes.

Watch this Garden Answer video to see how you can DIY your own upside down planter.

Soon your garden will be filled with delicious ripe tomatoes! For more tips on growing tomatoes, check out our organic gardening guide!

Less is More: How to Successfully Prune Tomatoes

Tiny tomato seedlings can vigorously turn into huge bushes in no time. In fact, they’ve even been known to bend cages and pull stakes out of the ground!

However, when it comes to growing tomatoes, less is more. Fewer leaves mean air circulates better and leaves dry quicker, reducing the risk of disease.

Plants with less density direct energy toward producing bigger fruit. Plus, tomatoes often ripen earlier after a good pruning, allowing you to enjoy your harvest sooner.

Here are some helpful tips for pruning your tomatoes this season.

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Pruning 101

1. Find out if your tomato plant is a determinate or indeterminate variety. Determinate varieties often thrive with less attention because they only produce one crop of tomatoes. Indeterminate varieties, on the other hand, require frequent maintenance because they produce tomatoes all season.

2. Pinch or snip flowers until plants are 12-18” tall. When the first green fruit appears, remove all suckers, ie leaves beneath that cluster.

3. Feed throughout the season with Tomato-tone.

4. As the plant continues to fruit and flower, chose a few strong stems to produce tomatoes and prune the rest. Though this results in less fruit, tomatoes will be bigger and juicier.

5. Continue removing unnecessary suckers and flowers at least once a week during peak growing season. Eliminate suckers while they are still small enough to remove by hand. If you need to use a tool, be sure to use a sharp pruner blade to make a clean cut.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Grow Up, Not Out

Tie tomato plants to a support such as a stake or a trellis to promote upward growth. This keeps tomatoes off the ground, keeping pests and diseases at bay. Vertically grown tomatoes are ultimately easier to prune because unnecessary suckers and leaves are more visible.

Though plants may now be better protected from insects and disease, staked and pruned plants may be more susceptible to blossom end rot and sunscald. Get a better harvest than you ever thought possible by giving tomatoes what they need!

Ready to learn more? Check out our guide to growing organic tomatoes for more information!