Tag Archive | tomatoes

UW-Extension Tips

We’re based in Wisconsin and can’t say enough good things about the expert help that is available to us through the University of Wisconsin – Extension. In a recent email to all Master Gardener members, there were two really good articles and I’m reproducing them here.

Expert’s Tip: 10 Tips for A Successful Tomato Container Garden

Ann Wied, Waukesha County UW-Extension Consumer Horticulture Educator

Not enough time or space for a garden?  Tomatoes grow great in containers. Here are a few tips to use yourself or share with others …

  1. Choose a compact, bush, or dwarf tomato variety. These tomatoes are often labeled at garden centers as “great for a container gardening”.
  2. Buy healthy, resistant varieties.  Choose varieties that are resistant to diseases prevalent to where you live.  Look for this information on the plant tag or garden catalog.
  3. Choose a container large enough to provide support for your tomato.
  4. Don’t rush to plant your tomato. Plant near the recommended planting date for your area. Even if you can protect the plants from frost and/or cold night air, cool temperatures can keep growth slow, cause nutrient deficiencies, and prevent fruit set. In addition, once fruits start to form, cold temperatures can cause the tomatoes to become deformed.
  5. Place the container in an area that has at least 4 hours of direct sunlight each day.
  6. Water your tomato plant whenever the top 2 to 3 inches of soil is dry. This may be every day or every other day if the weather is hot and dry.
  7. When you water, water until it drains through the bottom of the pot and don’t let the plant sit in excess water.
  8. Fertilize once a month throughout the growing season with a fertilizer labeled for vegetable plants.
  9. If the tomato gets too large or bushy, support it with a small cage or stake and/or prune out some branches.
  10. Monitor for disease and insect problems. If a disease occurs, remove and destroy infected leaves or the entire plant if the disease is severe.

 

Click here for a version (pdf) you can print and hand out to clients!

Expert’s Tip #2: Tips on preventing seed production when hand-pulling garlic mustard plants

Mark Renz; Associate Professor and Extension Specialist; University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ever wondered about these questions:

 

  • Is there a developmental stage where garlic mustard plants can create viable seed if pulled?
  • How does different disposal methods impact seed production?

 

I have summarized the results of research done on this topic (read the reference for all the details and their specific conclusions):

What stages can garlic mustard produce viable seeds when hand-pulled?

Plants were hand-pulled over three consecutive week sand separated into three phenological groups:

  1. flowering: < 5% of flowers developing into fruit
  2. early-fruiting: 40%-60%of flowers developing into fruit
  3. late-fruiting: > 95% flowers developing into fruit

Of these stages only the flowering stage didn’t produce any viable seed or seedlings the following year. While lots of variability existed with the later two stages, each of these produced viable seeds. Although this experiment was conducted atone site in one year other studies using phenology have found consistent results from year to year and site to site. Thus this is clear evidence to me that the flowering stage is a safe timing to not worry about seed production if plants are hand-pulled.

What is the best method to dispose of hand-pulled garlic mustard plants?

Three disposal treatments were evaluated where plants were left in field conditions for three weeks:

  1. left in a pile on the ground
  2. scattered on the ground
  3. hung over tree limbs

Results found that regardless of disposal method, similar viable seed and seedlings the following year were found. While these results are encouraging, they were conducted over one year in one location in Ohio. I would caution about over-interpreting this information as different environmental/physical conditions may alter the result.

Can second-year garlic mustard plants resprout from taproots if just shoots are removed?

Plants were cut at the soil surface at one of four phenological stages:

  1. budding: no flowers
  2. flowering: < 5% of flowers developing into fruit
  3. early-fruiting: 40%-60%of flowers developing into fruit
  4. late-fruiting: > 95% flowers developing into fruit

While some plant stages resprouted quickly from the first three timings (bud, flowering and early fruiting) no resprouting occurred with the late late-fruiting timing. Regardless of timing, all treatments did not result in the production of viable seed and plants did not survive the following year. Thus stage of shoot removal doesn’t appear to be that important, and while resprouting can occur it may not produce any viable seed. Similar to above I would caution about over-interpreting this information as lack of shoot resprouting could have been the result of site specific factors.

The big picture:

In summary, this research confirms that viable seed production can occur if hand-pulled after the flowering stage. If you are hand-pulling after this timeframe it is recommended to plan on some of the seeds being viable. Realize that while zero seed production is the goal, all treatments had large reductions in the production of viable seed (largest # of viable seeds per plant was < 20).

Consideration of the level of infestation should be included in the decision making process as well as this information. If hand-pulling plants in an area recently infested with few plants and limited to no garlic mustard seed bank I would recommend not taking any chances and bagging/removing plants if past the flowering stage. However, if the location has been infested for multiple years, a seed bank is likely present and I would be more willing to leave plants after flowering on site. A few additional viable seed won’t be the end of the world as repeated trips for multiple years will be needed regardless of the success in any one particular year.   

Reference:

Chapman, JI, Cantino PD and McCarthy BC. 2012. Seed Production in Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Prevented by Some Methods of Manual Removal. Natural Areas Journal Jul 2012 :Vol. 32, Issue 3, pg(s) 305-315.

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Shredded Wheat Straw for Vegetable Garden Mulch

by OCMGA Master Gardener Rich Fischer

Shredded Wheat Straw

One of the things I love about master gardeners is that we are always willing to share our experience and knowledge with other gardeners.  While at the last master gardener meeting someone mentioned to me that they bought bags of shredded wheat straw from Ace Hardware on Northland Avenue to use as mulch around their vegetable garden.   So being the curious gardener that I am I had to check it out.   I wish I could give credit to who told me this, but alas old age has affected my memory, or maybe it was too much partying in my wayward youth. 

Bag of shredded wheat straw

She was so right.  This shredded wheat straw is awesome.   Way easier to spread around the tomato plants than any other kind of ground cover.  It easily allows the water to get through and keeps down the weeds.  And at the end of the gardening season no need to rake it up, just let it decompose as an organic soil amendment.      

Like many vegetable growers I have tomato fungal disease carry over from year to year despite my best efforts to rotate the location.  It is either early blight or Septoria leaf spot or both.  The tomato plant leaves turn wilt, turn brown and die from the bottom up.  But we still get enough tomatoes and the fruit is just fine.  Hopefully the shredded wheat straw mulch will prevent soil splash and reduce the blight this year.   I have also been cutting off and disposing  the effected lower leaves at the first sign of wilt in hopes of slowing it down.

I am grateful for the information we gardeners share with one another and hope you find this gardening tip helpful.      

Rich Fischer

Rich’s tomatoes before and after applying the mulch:

Save your Heirloom Tomato Seeds

'Mr Stripey' heirloom variety tomato

‘Mr Stripey’ heirloom variety tomato

I like to try different kinds of tomatoes each year and, while the hybrids produce really good and generally disease-free fruit, there’s nothing like biting into a tomato that reminds you of your childhood. That happened to me this summer with one that I hadn’t tried before — ‘Mr. Stripey’. Now, we didn’t grow ‘Mr. Stripey’ when I was a kid (not to my recollection anyway), but it has that full, just-from-the-garden sweetness that I remember. As a result, I thought I might try seed saving this year — something I’ve never done. For help, I’m taking the advice to Diana Alfuth, horticulture educator for Pierce & St. Croix County UW-Extension.

Seed Saving

by Diana Alfuth

Saving vegetable seeds from year to year can be fun and economical. Self-pollinating plants, such as beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers, are the best vegetables to save. Vine crops, including squash, pumpkins, melons and cucumbers, are often cross-pollinated by insects, so seeds saved from these crops will likely grow into plants that produce fruit unlike that of the parent plant — often odd shaped or poor tasting.

For tomatoes, scoop the seeds and gel from the middle and put them in a jar of water. Stir the mixture daily and after four to five days, the gel will break down and the seeds will fall to the bottom. Pour off the liquid, collect the seeds, and place them in an even layer to dry. Coffee filters work really well for this purpose since they absorb moisture and you can write the variety name directly on the filter. For peppers, remove the seeds from ripe fruit after they begin to shrivel and put them directly into a filter for drying. Beans and peas can be left on the plants until dry and rattling in the pods, and then shelled for storage.

Once fully dry, store the seeds in a cool, dry place, ideally at 32º to 41ºF. Put your seeds in individual paper envelopes, and then put them all in a glass jar in your refrigerator or other cool place until planting time next year. Be sure to mark the envelopes with the date and variety.

Too Many Tomatoes?

by OCMGA Master Gardner Mary Learman

This is a fantastic recipe for the glut of tomatoes in the summer. I like to use it for that last crop of the year, when there isn’t enough for a big canning session but too much to eat.

Untitled1Passata is such a useful store cupboard item to use in all sorts of savory dishes. You can use it as is for a quick pasta dish, pizza sauce, add it to premade tomato sauces and soups for an authentic taste. If you are all canned out, simply pour the finished passata into containers and freeze to use in the winter. Add some to risottos, gumbos, soups, stews and polentas for a rich undernote of harvest.

Roasted Tomato Passata.

To make two 16-oz jars, you will need:-

4 ½ lb. ripe tomatoes
7 oz. shallots
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
a few sprigs of herbs of your choice – basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary
1 t. sea salt
½ t. black pepper
1 t. sugar
2 fl. oz olive oil
2 T. commercial lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut the tomatoes in half and place then cut side up in a single layer in a large roasting pan. Scatter the shallots, garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, sugar and oil over the top. Roast for about 50 minutes to one hour, until the tomatoes are well softened. Remove from the oven and puree using a food mill.

Put the tomato puree into a pan, add the lemon juice and bring to the boiling point. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal. Water bath for 35 minutes.

Use within one year. Once opened, refrigerate and use within a few days.

Always practice safe canning – http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html will answer all your questions.

Expert’s Tip: Ten Tips for A Successful Tomato Container Garden

Ann Wied, Waukesha County UW-Extension Consumer Horticulture Educator

Not enough time or space for a garden?  Tomatoes grow great in containers.  Here are a few tips to use yourself or share with others …

  1. Choose a compact, bush, or dwarf tomato variety. These tomatoes are often labeled at garden centers as “great for ctomatoes-in-containers-220x162ontainer gardening”.
  2. Buy healthy, resistant varieties.  Choose varieties that are resistant to diseases prevalent to where you live.  Look for this information on the plant tag or garden catalog.
  3. Choose a container large enough to provide support for your tomato.
  4. Don’t rush to plant your tomato. Plant near the recommended planting date for your area. Even if you can protect the plants from frost and/or cold night air, cool temperatures can keep growth slow, cause nutrient deficiencies, and prevent fruit set. In addition, once fruits start to form, cold temperatures can cause the tomatoes to become deformed.
  5. Place the container in an area that has at least 4 hours of direct sunlight each day.
  6. Water your tomato plant whenever the top 2 to 3 inches of soil is dry. This may be every day or every other day if the weather is hot and dry.
  7. When you water, water until it drains through the bottom of the pot and don’t let the plant sit in excess water.
  8. Fertilize once a month throughout the growing season with a fertilizer labeled for vegetable plants.
  9. If the tomato gets too large or bushy, support it with a small cage or stake and/or prune out some branches.
  10. Monitor for disease and insect problems. If a disease occurs, remove and destroy infected leaves or the entire plant if the disease is severe.

Tomatoes – the Legend of Louie

by Tammy Borden

maxresdefaultI confess, I’m not much of a vegetable gardener. I much prefer the delicate beauty of flowers and using them to design a stunning landscape. For some reason, a pepper plant swaying in the breeze doesn’t bring me the same delight as that of the tender blossom of a bleeding heart or daffodil.

But then there is the tomato… Yes, I know, to the true botanists out there it’s not technically a vegetable, but a fruit. Although, in 1887, the U.S. Supreme Court did apparently rule that it was indeed a vegetable. So legally, it seems, the tomato is not a fruit. Ah, but I digress.

For me, it’s not the most attractive of garden plants, so that’s not why I cherish it so much. And it’s not so much that I even like the taste of tomatoes. I would much prefer a freshly pulled carrot after wiping the dirt off on my sleeve, or those sweet sugar snap peas plucked right from the vine. Yes, my love of the tomato runs deeper than my taste buds. My love of the tomato is because of love itself.

His name was Louie… a larger than life character. I remember visiting his house in early spring and walking through the narrow pathways formed in his garage that hadn’t seen a car in years. Every possible space was filled with flats of seedlings. There were many kinds of plants that he intended to later sell out of the back of his rusty Volkswagen van at a nearby parking lot. The crudely written price signs drawn with a grease pencil on a sheet of notebook paper were his only marketing tool.

But his plants were legendary, and his pride and joy were his tomatoes: Early Girl, Jet Star, Beefsteak, Giant Pinks, and the list went on. He could tell you the unique characteristics of each variety – its flavor, color, shape, texture and size. I remembered his own small plot of land where he grew tomatoes that looked like something out of the Little Shop of Horrors. They were immense, with plants reaching the eaves of his house and tomatoes the size of musk melons.

Louie was my father-in-law, and I had the privilege of knowing him for more than 15 years before he went to that big tomato patch in the sky where there is no disease or blight – a comforting thought as I reflect on his battle with cancer and emphysema that eventually took his life. But his passion for the lowly tomato did not go unnoticed, and I have since taken on the challenge of continuing the tradition. Now, I am the one hauling flats of seedlings to share with friends and co-workers. Now I am the one saving seeds from his mystery Heirloom tomato – the one he always called “Giant Pink.”

The tomato… When I pluck that first one from the vine I get an immense sense of satisfaction and nostalgia as I think of Louie. That’s why gardening is so much more than a laborious task of weeding and pest control to me. Gardening for me is about relationships. Yes, much of my time in the garden is spent alone. But even in solitude I’m reminded of relationships – I can look at a plant and tell you who gave me a cutting of it, who I was with when I got it, who helped me plant it… As I look at the birds and butterflies I enjoy my relationship with nature and the one who created it all. And the lowly tomato – I can’t look at one without being reminded of my relationship with Louie, whom some may have considered a lowly old man himself, but whose wisdom and beauty brought unbelievable flavor to my life. Those are the things that make gardening so meaningful and enjoyable for me. Those are the things of life.

Louie’s Top Ten Tips for Tomatoes

1. Don’t over water seedlings – let them dry out a little

2. Dry leaves – wet roots… always water seedlings from the bottom

3. Keep seedlings out of brisk winds

4. Use a 15-30-15 fertilizer

5. Plant the seedlings deep!

6. Use lots of compost

7. Sun! Sun! Sun!

8. They grow best in soil between 6-7 ph

9. Once planted, keep consistently moist

10. A little salt and pepper on a slice of Giant Pink – nothing better!