Help with growing tomatoes in Northern PA please?
Question:We are buying a house tomorrow (closing on the sale) and I am just DYING to get a garden going in our new yard with tomatoes being my #1 priority. I know it's late in the season to plant tomatoes, but if I buy some plants that are already fairly big and plant them this weekend, will I still be able to reap a pretty good tomato harvest? Or should I just be patient and wait until next year?
If you take the time to prepare the bed where you'll be planting, you'll be giving yourself the best chance possible for a crop this year.
When buying tomotoes read the tag. You will not want to buy "early Girl" or any that produce fruits early. Don't worry about cherry or grape tomatoes. There's no problem there...
Now about your soil... Rake it and remove any leftover concrete, rocks and debri from about 10 inches down. A good method to do this is called "furrowing". You take a shovel, dig a trench about 10 inches deep and neatly pile the soil right next to the trench. You do this over the length of your bed. It looks like rows of trenches and lines of mounds, kind of stripe-ey. Then you fill in your trenches with the mounded soil, and trench out furrows from where you placed the mounded soil, filling back in when you're done. Now rake everything level. A GREAT tool to buy is a "Garden Claw". From this point on in your garden, it will be invaluable. and a back and time saver!!
Now for amending/prepping the soil. You've loosened and cleared out debri. Now you need to ADD nutrient for your plants. Organic material is the BEST way for the plant to absorb immediate nutrients. If you have a paper shredder, unpack it first and start shredding away! (No colored paper.) Use the shredded paper in your garden! Just work it into the soil. Buy some compost/manure (comes in bags, is sterilized and does not stink!) enough to cover the entire surface of your bed. Work this into the soil. At the grocery store, buy a bag or two of hamster bedding that is 100% pine shavings and nothing else. Sprinkle liberally over your bed and work that in. Water everything down. NOW you are ready to plant!
When purchasing your plants, don't necessarily take the ones with fruit you can see, but with the start of some blossoms. Also, purchase a bag of Milorganite (Home Depot) that you will use as fertilizer for planting and after AND some Miracle Grow.
Here's my tip for tomato planting.
Take off about 2 layers of leaves and branches from the bottom of the plant. With your hands, kind of crush the root ball so that some soil falls away from the roots. Use this in your planting hole. Lay the tomato plant in your hole and cover up to the first leaves on the plant at the bottom. You will be kind of laying the plant down sideways to do this. Do not worry, it will right itself in no time. What you are actually doing is giving the plant more under the soil to grow more roots. Before backfilling with the dirt, sprinkle a liberal amount of the Milorganite in the planting hole and cover with soil. Tamp with your hands only, don't "Stomp" around the plant, you'll damage tender roots, and water well with Miracle Gro mixed in water. Liberally sprinkle Milorganite around the base of each plant.
You can also add a 2 inch layer of plain mulch, not colored, around each plant to retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.
This will absolutely work!! I've done it myself many times.
My mom has a garden in western PA and I love her tomatoes!
If you buy the kind that are already staked and tall there shouldn't be any problem with having a good return this year. It's the baby plants that might be tough to get going at this point.
Good luck!! :)
Finding good plants at this time will probably be difficult. I would suggest you spend your time getting the soil ready for next year. You could try some plants in containers this year. My soil is so bad that I grow all my tomatoes in pots. This way, if the weather turns bad early, you could move them into the house.
Make sure you get some plants that are at least 12-18" high.
Also, make sure they have plenty of sunlight. You shouldn't have a problem.
After you till up the ground, put down black plastic as mulch. Cut "X"'s in it to plant the tomatoes. They love the extra heat generated. Plus it keeps the weeds down.
All heat loving plants do well like this in northern PA. Squash, cucumbers, etc.
Enjoy your new house and garden.
Go For It! However please pay attention to the number of days for maturity when looking to buy healthy tomato plants.
Personally I think your best bet this summer is cherry tomato plants since you are behind (our tomatoes are green and the plants have many yellow flowers). The fat juicy Big Boy tomato plants take too long, and what favorite ones I like to encourage my wife to buy every spring is the Early Girl tomato plants.
cherry tomatoes would proabably be OK, you could just put a few in large pots and bring them inside if it gets cold for larger plants, tomatoes don't require deep soil.
I'm guessing with a new house you will be plenty busy so waiting until next year is not a bad idea either,
wow patricia nice book, I must have been lucky to get good tomatoes by just sticking the plants in the ground and watering every few days:-)
If you decide to try this year (and I would and have put in tomato PLANTS late) . Dig a hole for the plant and make a mixture of the dirt , water and a cup of bonemeal. Mix this until you get a rather thick muc. Then imerse the plant into this and the results will be great. I don't agree withe the plastic mulch system, but rather use lots of organic mulch (leaves, dry grass clippings, even weeds which have no seeds) around the plants right up to the stem and about two inches deep. This mulch will keep the earth moist and will rot into the soil enriching it. Keep adding mulch as needed as it will diminish as it rots. Goodluck.
If you get a plant that is about normal height (around 8-10" )that hasn't been in it's pot for too long you'd be surprised how fast it will grow with plenty of sun and fertilizer.
Actually, I'm not a fan of the bigger plants. They don't grow nearly as fast as the smaller ones do. You'll find that the smaller ones will catch up and outpace the larger ones. Just find a good sunny spot to plant them and put plenty of Miracle Grow on them. They should produce some good tomatoes before fall.
My dad and I planted some tomato plants of the same variety, some small ones and some big ones. The smaller ones have already outgrown and are bigger than the bigger ones. I think having tomato plants in potting soil for too long stunts them.
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