Planting Tomatoes and Root Vegetables

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My Memorial Day weekend planting marathon got off to a fast start.  I planted all my sauce and fresh eating tomatoes.  30 plants in all.  Combine that with the Cherry Tomatoes I planted last weekend and I have 48 tomato plants in the ground and I am calling it done.

48 Tomato plants is actually a small reduction for me from last year.  I had somewhere between 55-60.  I had an extra garden row but it was shaded and produced very little and I also damaged my Cherokee Purple tomatoes because I neglected to stake and support them soon enough.  This year none of that procrastinating, when I put them in the ground I caged them and used 2 supports for each cage.  The larger one will be used to tie the plant to as it grows.

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I hadn’t planned to plant tomatoes that morning but when I checked on the seedlings they were starting to look a little tired.  They left their pampered greenhouse life over 2 weeks ago and they were not seeming to enjoy their new little greenhouse situation, so I thought I better get them in the ground fast and get them some nutrients via compost.

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I planned 5 rows in the main garden.  Each row is about 3 feet wide by 18 feet long.  6 plants per row.  Recycled landscape fabric from last year has been covering the rows for the last few weeks helping to keep soil warm.  I start by digging out the dirt in each hole as deep as I can with a hand shovel.

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Then I toss a couple handfuls of Lobster Compost into each hole.  I mix it into the soil.

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Next the tomato cage goes into the ground so the bottom rung is about 6 inches from ground.

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I use 2 stakes per cage.  1 small one to hold one side of cage in place and 1 larger one to do the same but also allow me to tie the plant to as it gets bigger.  I haven’t yet had a tomato cage stay upright that wasn’t staked so this is a necessity. Learned that the hard way too!

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Lastly the seedling gets planted in the hole and covered. I remove the bottom leaves from each plant so they aren’t touching the soil and plant it an inch or so deeper then it was in the seed tray.  I sprinkled a little extra compost on top of the soil at the base of plant once done.  You can see from the above picture the leaves were drooping and the plant doesn’t look great.

I gave them all a good watering and 24 hours later…

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The plants had sprung right back.  Hopefully the extra time between purchasing and planting doesn’t set them back much.

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In the ground I planted 12 Roma tomatoes, 12 Jet Star tomatoes, 3 Garden Peach tomatoes, and 3 Black Krim tomatoes.  The Roma’s and Jet Star’s will be the base of my homemade tomato sauce like last year.  I still have a handful of quarts left so I might make it to tomato picking time without having to buy any sauce.  That feels good!  My plan for tomato sauce is 2 parts Roma, 2 parts Jet Star, 1 part heirloom tomato (either Peach or Krim).  Last year it was Cherokee Purple as the final part.  I like tossing in some heirlooms for sauce, I think it makes it more flavorful.

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In my heirloom tomato row I also raked in my Coast of Maine Stonington blend soil.  I am interested to see if it help them produce a higher yield.

I feel pretty good having tomatoes crossed off my list.  It is by far by biggest garden crop but there is still a lot to do.  On to the next project…

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After years of disappointment with root vegetables I am committing to changing my fortune.  My hard clay soil has been vastly improved in the last few years and with renewed vigor I will again attempt carrots, beets, and radishes.  4th on that list is onions but I have already planted a raised bed with them this year.

I have successfully planted all three of these in containers but they always end up being so small.  Looking at the above picture carrots will go in the font bed (the largest part), followed by beets in the middle, and radishes at the top.  It is really a shame these have never come out for me in the past because the kids will eat them.  Spencer likes carrots, Norah will eat all three, and Em loves beets.

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All three of these I am planting the same way.  Dig each bed out deep, mix in a good amount of compost and rake flat.  Then I will make small holes with my finger and plant a couple seeds in each hole and lightly cover it back up with soil.  I am careful not to plant any of these seeds very deep.  The beets I spaced about 4 inches apart, the others were only a few inches each.

They will requiring thinning as they grow but you can eat the thinning in salad as baby greens so it won’t go to waste.

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The finished bed gets a good watering with a watering can.  I do it by hand instead of hose so as to not disturb the seeds.  I will keep this up until they get a few inches tall.

Hopefully in a couple month’s I will see Norah and Spencer in the garden munching on carrots!

planting carrots beets radish-4It was a good day of planting and I had my maniac helper with me almost all day.  He is a pretty big help in the garden.  By help I mean he stand near me, staring at me, and peppering me with questions unrelated to anything I am currently doing!  I really want to tell the maniacs to weed the garden or clean up the tools but I don’t want being outside in the garden to be a chore to them, so for now I allow them to watch and hopefully learn something.  I still have nightmares about my mom sending me outside to weed the flower beds so if they ask to help I give them a small thing they can easily accomplish. For Norah she is my go to chive cutter on pizza night and Spencer can manage to turn the hose on.  As I continue to learn how to grow our food I will look for ways to involve them in the process so one day they will enjoy it too.

Jeff McIntosh

About Jeff McIntosh

Jeff's family lives in his childhood home on a 1/4 acre in town lot. Despite the small space to work with, they have challenged ourselves to produce as much of our own food as possible — and cook it! They document their journey at Blogging with Apples.