TomatoMania- Hang In There!

green tomatoScott is back with more great TomatoMania tips!

He is here just in time too. Because instead of cooking one of the contest winning TomatoMania recipes today, I am heading to the studios of KCRW today to talk about them.

I am going to be interviewed on Good Food by the wise and wonderful  Evan Kleiman about all the terrific contest winning tomato recipes you have heard so (very, very) much about here on SippitySup!

I am unsure when the show actually airs, but you can be pretty sure I will let you know. Unless of course I bomb… either way I think they call this tooting your own horn. Beep! Beep!

So enough of me and my horn. Let’s get Scott back front and center. I know you are anxious to get your tomatoes off the vine and on the plate! GREG

green tomatoes on vineThis is the tough part. Yes, tomato lovers, this is the part of the adventure that separates the men from the boys.  It’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s where the cream rises to the top. It’s …ok, enough already. You get the picture.

If you planted at the cusp of the season, which most do, you’re probably seeing green  fruit now, the promise of a good season to come. The plants are in their prime, with fat glorious leaf cover protecting  fruit and flower. Feels pretty great doesn’t it farmers?  Enjoy that feeling but don’t let down your guard!

We’re getting to that point where maintaining diligence and a constant rhythm becomes increasingly important and in many cases, increasingly difficult.  With kids off from school, vacation time kicking in and other distractions bound to happen soon we often lose focus.  You don’t need to adopt a huge new program to be successful. The best thing you can do in the tomato garden is remain consistent.

Challenge one: 

Maintain digilence for pest and disease problems. A sudden change in the overall health and vigor of the plants in your garden can be easy to see at this point if all is going well. You can tell if something is different out there. Yellowing or curling leaves, spotting, new holes here and there, slowed growth etc. can all mean that your plant is being attacked on some front. 

Diagnose accurately via the web or get help from a local nursery expert and treat accordingly. There are wonderful organic options that are best for the vegetable garden. Some pests can be washed off with water. Others, like hornworms, can be plucked right off the leaves. 
Often you may see some yellowing or curling and find nothing significant to treat.That’s great! Some changes at this point of the year can be just seasonal and you need to know that too.
Challenge two:
Keep the watering schedule steady. Container growers, your plant is getting large and you play a more and more important role in getting it what it needs.  Inconsistency here can mean stress and you need to avoid that at all costs. Soak the pot thoroughly when you water.  Remember, the warmest part of the season is still ahead. Be ready to group your pots or cover (insulate) the containers to limit heat exposure and ensure a better harvest.
If you’re growing in the ground keep your irrigation schedule steady but don’t overdo it!  Keep an eye on rain totals (if you’re lucky enough to get summer rain) and don’t  create a swamp in your backyard. If you’ve been watering deeply you’ve created a well of available water underneath your plants that can sustain them in stressful weather or for a longer period between waterings. That’s the goal here. Deep and infrequent watering sets you up for success.
As plants grow and change (and begin to fruit) they won’t look as spry as they did earlier in the season. We’re tempted to try to fix that with water. Don’t do it! It won’t work folks. 
Challenge Three:
Use fertilizer sparingly (and intelligently) this time of the year. 
green cherry tomatoes on vineIn-ground gardens shouldn’t need much attention in this category if you’ve fed a couple times thus far.  Remember that overfeeding can get you lots of plant and an absense of fruit. A light foliar feeding on a mild day can be a good pick-me-up as the season progresses however. A liquid kelp mixture is a good choice but it’s high in nitrogen so careful that you don’t overdo it.
In containers continue to feed at least every two weeks. Organics won’t burn but careful if you’re using a chemical mix.  Here too, a foliar feeding can be a huge asset for your season.

Top dressing (mulching) with compost can be the best thing to do this time — or any time — of the season.
Challenge Four:
Have you noticed green or ripening  tomatoes disappearing suddenly? Critters love tomatoes as much as we do. If you live in canyons or anywhere that sees regular animal traffic of any kind be ready to take action. I’m fighting ground squirrel damage already but I know that my Australian Shepherd loves cherry tomatoes too so don’t overlook your household menagerie!
Netting, fencing or repellants can save your season. Do it now! Fruit is especially vulnerable as it turns color.
So just when you thought you could relax and concentrate on harvesting it becomes even more important that you stay with it.  The rewards will be well worth it. Good luck!

Scott Daigre