There are two types of people in the South, says Garden Magik presenter, Melissa Allman: “You get people who have grown tomatoes and those who will grow tomatoes.”
The inference here is that Southerners love planting and eating tomatoes and therefore have a bit of an edge when it comes to both. In this longish (8:07) video, entitled Back to the Garden, Miz Allman, attired in denim shorts and a tomato colored top, tells us how it’s done, deep in the woods of Georgia near Monroe, where the deer still roam free.
There are a number of considerations when growing tomatoes:
* Garden size. If your garden is small, consider planting a determinate type bush (i.e. small, busy, limited in size and easy to manage) rather than an indeterminate type (i.e. rangy, vigorous, requiring pruning and staking/caging).
* Fruit size. Decide if you want small cherry type tomatoes such as Sweet Hundreds or Sweet Millions, large fruits such as Big Boys, Better Boys and Rutgers, or extra large fruit, which really are huge. A Giant Belgian weighed in at 5 lb. and a Delicious at 7 lb 12 oz.
* Seasons. You can plant tomato plants in one of three seasons: early, mid and late. In the early season you plant when the night temperatures are 70 degrees and up. Early Girls and First Ladies are suitable for the early season plantings, and there will be time to plant again after harvest in July and later for harvest in September and the fall. For the mid season, which lasts 60 to 75 days, you plant Big Boys and Better Boys to produce delicious fruits for sandwiches. Late season plants include Abe Lincoln and Arkansas Traveler.
*Soil preparation. Fall is a good time to prepare the soil as it is more friable. Tomatoes like acidic soil in the 6.5 pH range. You should add lime to the soil, preferably dolomitic lime as this contains magnesium, which is good for the skin of the tomatoes. By adding lime you avoid calcium deficiency in the soil and therefore the plant. A lack of calcium leads to plant diseases and other troubles – conditions such as leaf curl and blossom end rot.
*Planting method. Dig deep holes for the plants and put lime at the bottom. Plant 75% to 80% of the plant so that just the top leaves stick out. The stem under the ground will put out out roots to create a strong and vigorous plant. Fertilize the plant when you place it in the soil, with a fertilizer having a 15/15/15 analysis of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Fertilize it further every six weeks with fertilizer with a 5/10/15 analysis. Use 1 lb of fertilizer per roughly three plants. A low nitrogen content in fertilizer is good for tomato plants. Too much nitrogen and the plant will not be able to absorb calcium.
*Protection. If you live deep in the Southern woods, build a fence around your tomato garden or the deer will get the tomatoes before you do.