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THE GARDEN ORACLE RELAXES AMIDST SPRINGTIME BLOSSOMS AND GREENS IN HIS ORGANIC VEGETABLE, HERB, FRUIT AND CUTTING FLOWER GARDEN

Prepping The Tomato Bed

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STEP-BY-STEP SLIDESHOW TUTORIAL:


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This is the bed I grow my indeterminate (vining) tomatoes in every year. It has a cover over it with a drop-down front (that is folded up in these photos) to keep the rain off the plants and temperatures up since I live in the Pacific Northwest (I will do future posts about building raised beds and tomato houses, etc when I get a chance). As you can see it is free of weeds (I pulled a few earlier in the season) but the soil level is down about 2 or more inches below the top of the boards -- this is due in part to settling, but also from the amount of material that was broken down and "consumed" by last year's crops in order to grow about 30 large tomato plants and loads of fruit (hundreds of luscious slicing and heirloom tomatoes from a 16X4 foot bed). Now it's time to add back what goodness Mother Nature took from the soil last year so that we can reap another great harvest.
The first step is to broadcast a high-quality organic tomato fertilizer evenly across the surface of the entire bed.  I've used about a half-cup per square yard here of a certified organic 3-3-3 fertilizer made especially for tomatoes and other fruiting vegetables (there are some great choices listed at the bottom of this post -- apply as directed on the label).  Organic fertilizers are milder and therefore more forgiving than chemical fertilizers if you accidentally apply a little more than necessary, and they also release more evenly over time as the soil microbes break them down into a form usable by the plants (some organic fertilizers even include beneficial microbes and fungi to help with this process).  Use a cultivator, steel-tined rake or hoe to work the fertilizer into the first couple inches of soil.  The type of cultivator shown here is ideal for the home garden and raised beds with decent quality soil that needs to be aerated, fluffed and lightly amended.   If your soil is poor or compacted you may want to use a digging fork, hoe or power cultivator to break it up and turn in some compost (there are links to these tools at the bottom of this post).
Next, I add a few bags of chicken and steer manure to the bed (figure about 1 cubic foot of composted manure per square yard of soil surface area).  Large breed tomatoes use ALOT of nutrients, so you want to feed them well.  This is especially true in home gardens where you are trying to get alot of produce out of a small space.  The chicken manure is high in micronutrients such as magnesium and calcium and is a good source of phosphorus and potassium (these are all important for disease resistance and healthy flower and fruit production), while the steer manure is high in nitrogen and carbon to help build large strong plants.  Use a large-tined seeding rake, cultivator or hoe to work the manure and amendments into the topsoil of the entire bed evenly, breaking up any clumps in the manure as these can burn the roots.  After the bed is fully amended with fertilizer and manure and raked out evenly there still is well over an inch of space between the top of the soil and the top of the bed.
A final layer of compost all the way to the top of the bed finishes off the prep work. Here I've used a high-end commercially bagged organic compost as a topping. You can use your own compost if you like (and I often do) but this method avoids excess weeding because commercially bagged mulches and composts are generally free of weed seeds because they are heated enough to sterilize them. I often use my compost as a soil amendment and then top off with some bagged compost or mulch on top to keep the weeding to a minimum after planting. Speaking of which, this bed is now done and ready for tomato plants!


Homegrown Organic Bush Tomatoes Ripen Nicely in Early Summer with Reflected Sun and Warmth on the South Side of the Garden Oracle's Greenhouse.



Here are some of my favorite fertilizers and tools for this project:

Gardener's Supply Co. Organic Tomato Fertilizer, 5 Lbs. Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$14.95
Gardener's Best® Organic Tomato Fertilizer, 24 Oz. Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$9.95
Dr. Earth 4lb 5-7-3 Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer (704P) Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$12.99
Happy Frog Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer, Fertilizer Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$15.40
Jobe's Fertilizers 8 lb. Organic Heirloom Tomato and Vegetable Plant Food 09028 Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$9.98
Kellogg Garden Organics Fertilizers 3.5 lb. Tomato, Vegetable and Herb Fertilizer 3000 Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$8.48
Easy Gardener Products 09026 Jobes Organics Vegetable And Tomato Granular Fertilizer 4 Pound Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$12.29  $10.59
Tomato Maker Fertilizer & Blossom End Rot Prevention Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$11.56
Purely Organic Products Fertilizers 2.25 lbs. Tomato and Vegetable Plant Food TVJRDK1 Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$15.99
Hoffman 20505 4-2-3 Dehydrated Manure - 5 lbs. Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$14.01  $10.38
Hoffman 21004 Cow Manure 1-1-1 - 4 lbs. Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$24.84  $18.40
Espoma Granulated Organic Garden Manure Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$22.61  $16.75
Organic Traditions Dehydrated Granulated Garden Manure Plant Food 15 lbs. Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$16.61
Juniper Farms 235435 NorthEast Gardener Composted Farmyard Manure Pack of 2 Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$13.05  $9.67
Waupaca Northwoods Llc WGM03225 1 cu. ft. Chicken Manure Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$16.36  $12.12
Waupaca Northwoods Llc WGM03260 1 cu. ft. Organic Compost Blend Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$17.05  $12.63
Black Gold 1 Cu Ft Compost (1411602 1CF P) Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$8.49
Tank's Green Stuff - 100% Organic Compost - 1 cu ft Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$7.99
Espoma Organic Garden Soil For Vegetables And Flowers 1 Cubic Foot VFGS1 Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$16.77  $12.90
Black Gold 1 Cf Garden Soil (1411603.CFL001P) Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$6.99
Jackson Garden Tools 66 in. Kodiak J-250 14-Tine Curved Level Rake 18861 Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$44.99
Garden Weasel(r) 56in Garden Cultivator (90206) Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$29.99
Jackson Garden Tools 52 in. Kodiak J-250 Forged 4-Tine Speedy Cultivator 18005 Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$58.99
Spear & Jackson R712 Traditional Stainless Steel Digging Fork with 28 Inch Wood YD handle Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$91.27  $67.61
True Temper 70110/FKSB75 Razor Back 7 By 3 1/2 Inch Blackland Meadow Hoes Organic Tomato Fertilizer, Manure, Compost, Vegetable Soil,  Rake, Cultivator, Hoe, Garden Fork
$32.45  $27.69



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2 comments:

  1. Thank you for all the wonderful directions, I will absolutely put them to good use this weekend now that it looks like we have had our last snow fall (knock on wood..lol, it is May 16th and it snowed 4 inches just this past weekend here in Northeastern Colorado).. I had a problem with my first tomato season last year and would love to get some advice from you please.. I was plagued with what I am told was Enz-Rot on all my tomatoes, and peppers.. what can I do this year to make sure this does not happen again..?? Also, what can I do to protect my raised beds from the hail storms that our area gets every summer.. it really tears up the plants and kills off everything.. Thank you for any advise you can give. ~Suzy in Colorado~

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Suzy, SO sorry I missed seeing your question/comment earlier! Thankyou so much for the kind words on this and your other comments here! Here are some answers to your questions:

    The first problem you mention is usually referred to as Blossom End Rot, and is most commonly associated with low calcium and magnesium levels, although also can come from water on the foliage/blossoms and cool, damp, rainy/misty weather. It can affect a number of fruiting vegetables such as Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, and Squash. Using specialized Tomato Fertilizers, Manures and Soil Ammendments that are rich in Calcium, Magnesium and other micronutirens can help alot with this. My suggestion is to ammend your soil with a combination of organic tomato/veggie fertilizer, timed release fertilizer, chicken manure and/or bat guano, compost, a micronutrient suppliment that contains high levels of calcium and magnesium, and/or an organic source of Calcium such as bone meal or fish-bone meal. You can scratch these in around/between your plants during the growing season (careful to follow application rates so as not to burn roots and top off with compost/mulch and water-in your ammendments) and then ammend the soil deeply in the spring and fall between crops as well. Go extra heavy on the compost and if you can include crushed eggshells, wood ash and coffee grounds in your compost when you make it or add these to your soil in moderate amounts when you prep your beds that should help as well. There is also blossom end rot spray available, which you can get along with many of the other products I mentioned either through the product pages here on my site or by searching the Garden Oracle Store at the bottom of the site, and of course through the supplier links here on the site as well (check the product supplier/deals pages listed on the right of the site for a full listing of suppliers).

    For the hail (and also to protect crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc from cold rainy weather which may help with your other issues as well as give you a longer growing season) I suggest building a tomato house out of bamboo poles or small gauge lumber for the frame and heavy UV-Stabilized Greenhouse plastic for the cover, and if possible build this structure against a South facing wall or solid fence in a protected area for reflected warmth and wind protection from Northern winds/storms. You can also build/buy a hoop house or greenhouse and for shorter crops there are cold frames and cloches/tunnels (small hoop houses). If you really get hammered by frequent hail then you probably want to use something with a hard, clear cover on top such as plexiglass or polycarbonite, or invest in a manufactured rigid-panel greenhouse. You may want to eventually have both a solid greenhouse AND hoop houses and cold frames outside covering your raised beds given that you are in a colder climate with short growing seasons. There are many of these items available through the Season Extenders tab on my site here: http://www.thegardenoracle.com/p/season-extenders.html.

    I sure hope this helps and please feel free to come use the "Ask The Oracle" page here on the site if I can be of more assistance!

    ReplyDelete

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