KC tomato Times
WOW! The response from my last mailing has been incredible! It seems that you KC tomato gardeners are not only hungry for tomatoes, but also ravenous for information on making that tomato patch as prolific as possible.
Most of the questions seem to revolve around fertilizing it seems. Everyone sees all the ads for ferts that will make your thumb magically green and your garden the stuff of Jack and the beanstalk legend! Nothing could be farther from the truth though. In fact, a good garden will need little if any fertilizer throughout the year. If you build good soil, it will have all of the things your plants need with few if any amendments.
Start will good compost…make your own if possible or buy it in bulk from Suburban Lawn and Garden in the south side of town or Missouri Organic if you’re farther north.
http://www.suburbanlg.com/ or http://www.missouriorganic.com/ I’ve dealt with both of these companies and have had great service and a great product from both. Put a big tarp in the bed of your pickup truck or trailer and buy a yard of compost for around $30-$35 a truck load. This is WAY cheaper than the bagged stuff. Mix in some perlite and/or some vermiculite at about a 8-1-1 compost/perlite/vermiculite ration and you’ve got a great filler for your raised beds or you can till this into your existing garden.
If you absolutely need to use fertilizers, make sure you use ones designed for vegetable gardening. Ferts all have a 3 number system which designates Nitrogen-Phosphorous-and Potassium. They are represented by 3 numbers. ##-##-##. Make sure the middle number is higher than the other two numbers. For example 5-10-5 or 2-6-2. If you use a fert with a high N number, you’ll have great big, green plants, but very little fruit on the vines.
This winter, get a soil test. Go to http://www.epa.gov/nps/toolbox/other/KSMO_KnowYourSoil.pdf for information on how to do this. Then you’ll know exactly what your PH and nutrient availability is next year and can adjust your gardens accordingly.
Another question I get a lot is about mulching. I am a firm believer that mulch MUST be used in the garden. Whether you use plastic film, straw, grass clippings, or wood chips etc is up to you. I use all of them at some point in the year, but my primary mulch is a silver reflective plastic film. I used to use the red film, but switched to the silver last year as a solution to the aphid problems I was having. I was amazed at how well it worked at keeping aphids from using my plants as a shad area/buffet. The silver bounces light up under the leaves and causes the aphids to go elsewhere to take a nap and have some lunch. This is what I use: http://www.mulchfilm.com/id23.htm It’s hard to find though, and a bit expensive, but well worth the effort due to the great results. It can be used for 2 or more years depending on how rough you treat it. My garden looks like a science fiction garden or perhaps a disco, but I do very little weeding, have great water/soil retention, and use almost no pesticides anymore!
One last note for everyone that is interested in rain barrels, if you want to get involved with them, do it for the right reasons. Using rain barrels will not save you any money for many, many years unless you can get all the materials for free and don’t count the labor in setting them up and building them. Get involved with rain barrels because you want to use the best possible water for irrigation and keep some water from running down the sewers. City water has chlorine and other chemicals in it that are not good for your plants or your soil…using rain barrels will cut back on your use of city water and improve the overall health of your garden, but perhaps not your pocketbook. I currently have 4 barrels for a total of 220 gallons of available rain water. I bought all of my barrels from Rhae in Raytown. She has an excellent design system for building them is great to work with and her prices are very reasonable. Send her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll be more than happy to help you out. Tell her I sent you!
I’ve also had some requests for pictures of my gardens. I’m a very cluttered person, so forgive the scattering of tools and other miscellany around my beds. Enjoy the pics and feel free to comment on them with any questions or suggestions. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesfrommissouri/
Finally, the response for having a tomato tasting in August has been overwhelming! I’ve got some great people willing to help me out already (Right Judy and Camry!?!?) and we’ll work out the details as summer arrives! For now, mark August 22nd on your calendars.
I’ll send out another newsletter in June to talk about tomato plant support, drip irrigation, and any other ideas you folks have questions about. Until then…keep those thumbs green!
(The Tomato Man)