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Dallas Morning News - March 25, 2021

Tomatoes Choices and Chores


Tomatoes are the most popular fruits in the country, maybe in the world. What? You thought tomatoes were vegetables? They're known that way, but technically they are the fruits of tomato plants. They are relatively easy to grow – especially if you choose wisely when selecting the varieties and prepare healthy planting beds.


Healthy tomato transplants ready to set out in the garden

Large tomatoes are great for slicing but small tomatoes shouldn't be overlooked


I enjoy big juicy slices of tomato as much as the next guy, but have become a fan of small tomatoes as well. They keep longer and have great taste. Among the best are Sungold, Fox Cherry and Wild Current. Medium size tomatoes to try include Valley Girl, Celebrity, Porter, SuperFantastic, Juliet and Early Girl. Roma and Mama-Mia are two terrific paste tomatoes. Large tomatoes that will do well include Tycoon, Big Beef, Bella Rosa and Crista.


As with most food crops, tomatoes thrive in well-prepared soil with lots of compost, lava sand, Azomite, natural diatomaceous earth, cornmeal, dry molasses and organic fertilizer. Medina, Nature's Creation and Good Natured are choices with a blend of ingredients. It helps to add fish meal and alfalfa meal for a little more kick. Corn gluten meal also works well and helps keep down the weeds. Shredded native tree trimmings is the best mulch choice.


Tomatoes being supported by concrete reinforcing mesh cages


For maintenance ease and increased production, use metal cages. Concrete reinforcing wire mesh makes excellent, strong cages for tomatoes and other vegetables. The flimsy little cone-shaped cages aren't very good.


Fertilize three times per season because tomatoes are heavy feeders, but don't overdo it. Too much fertilizer can cause lots of stems and foliage but little fruit. Try adding a handful of Epsom salts under new transplants to increase fruit production and limit blossom end rot. Zeolite, earthworm castings and soft rock phosphate can also be used this way.


Early blight starting on tomatoes

Red spider mites - not early blight


The most common problem of tomatoes is often misidentified. Southern blight or early blight causing lower foliage to turn yellow is usually thought to be spidermites. If truly spidermites, you'll see white webs with tiny red mites in the webs resulting from a defective moisture cycle in the plant. Cause could be too much or too little irrigation, poor drainage or just poor soil preparation that the plant doesn't like. Any spray containing seaweed will stop the mite problem short but it will return if the water issue isn't addressed and fixed.


Red Christmas tree ornaments hung on plants before the fruit starts to ripen will repel birds. Bird Scar Flash Tape strung over the top of plants will also help keep wildlife away. Foliar feed your crops, especially tomatoes with Garrett Juice and add 2 oz. of orange oil per gallon of spray if occasional pests pop up. Hand remove hornworms and treat for all diseases by applying whole ground cornmeal to the soil and spraying cornmeal tea or hydrogen peroxide at a 1- ½% concentration.





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