Suppose you like to make pizza, so much so that you cook it a few times a week. At that point, you’re probably exploring all the tips and techniques to make all the ingredients fresh and delicious. Which is exactly why I decided to start a tomato garden.
I’ve heard that growing tomatoes is easy, and armed with that information I popped into the local nursery today to get some plants. Picked up a 6-pack of Roma seedings (for sauce) – $1.49, plus slightly larger cherry tomato and early girl plants for $2.49 each. Cheap right? Well, no, I also had to get soil, fertilizer, some buckets (the owner of my place probably doesn’t want me digging up her gorgeous landscaping), and cages. Drove off with $70 worth of tomato materials in my trunk.
First thing I had to do was clean the buckets – I was happy they sold me used ones (always reuse when you can) but they needed to be cleaned out with a lightly bleachy solution in case the prior inhabitant had some sickly issue.
Next, stop up the bottom of the buckets with a single sheet of b&w printed newspaper (hard to find! everything seems to be in color now). This will keep the soil from washing out before the roots take hold, at which point the newspaper will have deteriorated away.
Fill the bucket with the potting soil, and compact it down (but not TOO hard).
At the top, mix in a handful of fertilizer. I used chicken manure, because it’s what my grandmother used. From what they told me at the nursery, I only have to do this every couple months – does this stuff go bad? I have a huge bag of it now, and there’s no way I’ll come close to using it all for a long long time.
Once mixed, dig out an indentation for the plant to fit into. It’s better to go too deep than too shallow.
Push the tomato seedling out of the soft plastic planter. This is my favorite part – they pop right out like popsicles, roots soil and everything. Place the into the hole (face up, of course), and push the dirt you dug out back on top of the seedling and compact it down to hold it into place.
Put the cage over the plant now – you won’t be able to do this once it grows a bit – they get big fast. The cages I have are small because I’m using buckets, and they will ultimately need to be supplemented with stakes.
For the first few days the plants don’t need massive sun – give them a chance to get used to being in their new homes. After that, find a sunny spot – tomatoes like full bright sun – and keep them watered.
Eight plants might be overboard, but I’d rather have too much than too few. Updates to come!