I disappeared from the blog while I planted my tomatoes, which was not a simple undertaking. I am thrilled to now have 31 tomato plants in the ground in the hoop house. My legs and feet ache from all the digging, partly due to an old injury and partly due to being out of practice with a shovel.
Preparations for Planting Tomatoes
The first digging was to get the Jerusalem artichokes out of the way. They are not really artichokes, but actually a member of the sunflower family with edible tubers. They liked the north wall of the hoop house and became so rampant I decided to dig them all out of there. I cannot have them encroaching on my precious tomatoes!
I dug four full five gallon buckets of tubers and still have a section in the corner to finish, probably another couple of buckets or so. I hauled in three wheelbarrow loads of compost to level the ground where I removed the tubers. I dug that into the ground.
Then I raked the dry grass clipping mulch off each row and spread shellfish fertilizer on the row. That had to be dug into the ground as well, simply to get rid of the odor so I could continue working. I spread the mulch back over the rows, which further reduced the odor.
All of my supplements for my high brix experiment were ready to use. I set up the aerator and began brewing a microbe tea. I tossed an aspirin in the mix to help activate the tomato plants resistance to cold nights since they will no longer be in the heated section of the hoop house.
I made little containers of the other ingredients, which included another microbe inocculant, the fertilizer to feed those microbes, another mostly organic environmentally friendly fertilizer for the plants themselves, gypsum, and bone meal. I would have used all gypsum but the nursery only had one small box, so I added bone meal to be sure I have enough calcium. I will add rock phosphate later.
I placed the containers at the end of the row where I intended to begin. Then I raked the mulch back off the row again.
Choosing and Arranging the Tomato Plants
Usually I have a carefully planned layout for my plants, putting the tall cherry tomatoes in the peak of the hoop house where they have the most room to grow and the slower plants on the shorter ends. This year I did manage to put the Sweet Million Cherry tomatoes in the center peak locations, but the rest was considerably more random.
The reason is I tried growing the plants 8 weeks from seeding instead of 6 weeks. The plants grew so large they gradually fell backwards off the bench, hanging down and doing mid air u-turns to grow back up. This made working behind the bench nearly impossible. The plants also tangled in an alarming manner.
This photo shows the plants on the bench prior to planting. The tall plants in the picture are actually the smaller plants that are two weeks younger. The nearer plants which appear smaller only look smaller because most of the plant is hanging off the back of the bench. You can click on the photo for a closer look.
Due to this difficulty the tomatoes mostly went in the ground in the order which I untangled them. Handling these large plants without breaking the stems took careful handling and perhaps a certain amount of luck.
I dug the first hole at the end of the row, putting the dirt in a large blue muck tub. The hole was fairly deep as I wanted to lay the root ball sideways and bury as much stem as practical without breakage.
The root ball was then covered with dirt from the next hole to the left, mixing in the additives from my prepared containers. I continued working my way down the row in that manner until the end, when the dirt in the blue muck tub was used to cover the last root ball.
This photo shows the third tomato plant positioned in the hole. I roughly circled the base and plant label of the first two tomato plants so you can see more clearly how I was proceeding.
Training Tomato Plants on Strings
I allowed one sucker to grow on each plant so two main stems developed. I have two nylon strings hanging down from the ceiling for each plant so each stem will have a string to support it upright.
Tomatoes will not cling to the string unaided, but if you twine the string around the stem as it grows, the string will support it beautifully. A little slack is needed in the beginning as the stem will take it up as it gets larger.
This photo shows a tomato plant with its two main stems and the strings wound around them to support the plant upright. This allows for more efficient use of the greenhouse space and better air circulation at the same time.
All nine plants in the first row are planted, mulched, and trained on their strings. The plants are a bit untidy due to the contortions created in their stems by falling off the bench and changing directions. The plants have not yet had time to rearrange their leaves to catch the sun in the normal way either.
You can see other strings in the foreground and background which do not yet have plants. In the far back is a row of peas with a casually tied nylon string trellis for the cucumbers which will grow there later. In the far left back corner are the remaining Jerusalem artichokes I still have to remove.
Completion of Planting and Foliar Spraying
After I finished the third row this morning, completing a total of 27 tomato plants, I photographed them. This evening I planted 4 more plants in another row and that finished the tomato planting for this year.
The mesh wire fencing in the back is nailed across the big double doors to keep my rascal of a puppy out of the hoop house when the doors are open. Cosmo is deliriously excited at the idea of digging and eagerly tries to help. He also regards plants as tug of war material. In short, he is totally unfit for the greenhouse at this time!
Once the plants were all in the ground, mulched, and on their strings, I filled my sprayer and applied the microbe tea to the plants. I also did a soil drench down each row with the tea.
It was terribly hot today, somewhere in the 80s, and the plants wilted a little in the afternoon. The hoop house was in the 90s, so they had every right to feel stressed. They probably will do that the next couple of days as they adjust to being in more direct sunlight. As soon as they get used to their new conditions, I expect serious growth. And, of course, those lovely red orbs that are the point of this whole exercise!
Copyright © Lexi Sundell 2007. All Rights Reserved.