Planting a bed of tomato plants

Ok…haven’t done many new gardening blog posts in a while as I’ve covered most everything I do at some point over the past decade.  I’ve refined my tomato planting techniques a bit this year and decided to do a tutorial on how I grow tomatoes in my Kansas City backyard.

I’m a firm believer in using compost to fill my raised beds.  I do not use manures or topsoil as these are sometimes a crapshoot (pun intended) and can lead to more problems than they ever help solve.  Good  FULLY composted yard waste from a local source is your best soil builder always.  When starting a new bed I mix 8 parts of compost with 1 part peat, one part perlite, and one part vermiculite by the shovel full and have had excellent results for many years with this mix.  I top dress the beds each year with a wheelbarrow or two of straight compost and lightly till it in to the existing soil.  Never step foot in your beds as this compacts the soil.

My wooden raised beds are 4 foot wide, 12 inches tall and have various lengths. I use copper treated lumber and found these to last about 8-10 years before they need additional support or complete replacement.  I am now replacing these old wooden beds with galvanized metal beds that are absolutely beautiful and built to last much longer than my lifetime.  I have 5 of them now and will be adding a bed or two to the garden each year as I can afford it.  They are very expensive, but are well worth the money.  They go together easily with a couple of wrenches.  If you’re looking to make an excellent investment in your garden…I highly recommend them!

Ok…on to the tomato planting!  You must mulch your tomato plants in some form.  Straw works well. Grass clippings are ok.  I prefer plastic silver reflective mulch film for many reasons.  Plastic does an excellent job of retaining moisture and eliminating weeds.  Plastic also allows you to control your watering with drip irrigation.  When we have heavy thunderstorms, the excess water runs off of the plastic and keeps you from having split fruit problems when the plant takes up too much water. The most important thing the silver film does is bounce light under the leaves of your plants.  This keeps aphids and hornworms from having a shady place to hide!  I’ve NEVER had a hornworm (knock on wood) since using this silver film!  Bonus effect of using the silver film is that you can see your garden from space!  The next time Google Earth updates their pictures, your gardens will shine from the heavens!

I start by laying the silver film over my entire bed and anchoring it at each end to hold it in place


I use a box cutter to cut an X over the spot I want each plant to go.  Space your plants 3 feet apart to ensure they have plenty of room for air circulation and are not competing with each other for soil nutrients.  I then insert a garden staple to mark the location of the center of the X so I know where to put my plant.

I then remove the film and add about two big handfuls of Tomato Tone fertilizer to the spot where I am going to plant  This will get mixed into the soil as you dig your hole.


Your tomato plant needs to be planted DEEPLY!  Pinch off any of the leaves below the growing tip and bury the plant with just the top leaves sticking out of the ground.  Use your fingers to do this instead of scissors as this closes the wound better.  the pic on the left shows a Carbon plant before pruning.  The pic on the right is after I have pinched off the lower leaves.

We have cutworms in the area.  If you haven’t had problems with them yet…you will at some point.  The cutworm is a grub that lives underground during the day and roams the surface of the soil at night looking for tomato plants to eat.  When they find your plant, they wrap their bodies around it and chop it down like a lumberjack!  Then they crawl off, burrow underground and sleep off their delicious meal.  To prevent this from happening, you need to use a cutworm collar.  I have had great results using the cups I grow my plants in as the collar.  Just cut off the bottom of the cup with some scissors and slide it over the plant as you put it in the ground.  When the cutworm crawls around, he hits your cup edge, then goes around it looking for something else.  He won’t climb up into it…they are not good climbers.

Dig your hole deep enough to bury the plant up to the level above where you pruned.  Mix the fertilizer in the soil as you dig.  Slide that collar over the plant and fill the cup and the surrounding hole with soil.

Water your plants in VERY WELL right after planting.  Use a watering can or a hose turned on slowly to allow at least a gallon or more of water to soak into the soil around each plant.  This helps to reduce transplant shock.  Make sure none of the leaves are touching the soil.  Water your plants once every 7-10 days after that and throughout the summer.  Watering more than this can cause your plant to be more susceptible to diseases and will make for watery tasting fruit.

I prefer to use drip irrigation to water my plants.  I have 4 rain barrels attached to the gutters of my house which provides me with 200 gallons of chlorine free, warm water to deliver to my plants.  I use soaker dripline with emitters spaced every 9 inches and lay two lines of this next to my plants.


After the plants are watered in well and my dripline is installed, I cover the whole bed with the film making sure none of the plant leaves touch the plastic.


After the film is installed, I put my cages over the top of it.  I use concrete reinforcing wire cages and a T-stake and zip ties as one method, but I far prefer the Texas Tomato Cages!  These again are very pricey, but will last forever and are very easy to install.  Purchase the medium sized ones, not the large.  They have built in stake feet that slide right through the film and into the soil.  They also fold flat for easy storage after tomato season is done.


Well…there you have it  Now get out there and plant those tomatoes!


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Early Spring Gardening Class

This post is primarily for those who signed up for the gardening class I am offering with the Olive Tree.  If you’re interested in spring gardening plants including onion plants, please let me know.


Thank you so much for joining my spring gardening class this year! I’m very excited to be partnering with the Olive Tree to bring you great products to make your home grown vegetables taste their finest!

We will be meeting at the Olive Tree (4937 W. 119th Street (In Hawthorne Plaza) at noon on Sunday, March 11th.  We’ll spend about an hour there talking about the concepts of garden location, succession gardening, soil building, and myriad other topics as well as learning a bit about olive oils and vinegars to make those tasty salad dressings.

From there we will caravan to my home (215 East 97th Street, Kansas City, MO) to do some hands on learning while planting a garden. We’ll be working in the soil outdoors, so dress appropriately for the conditions and weather.  After we get a bed planted  and a low tunnel installed to see how it’s done, you’ll pick out your seedlings, get your seeds, onion plants, and the materials to build your low tunnel to protect your garden.  Then you’ll be off to grow all the good things this spring!

Click the link below to get a peek at what we’ll be covering as well as the list of vegetable seedlings you will have to select from.  All are hyperlinked for you to click on to learn about and see pictures of.  You will get to pick 10 sets of the selected varieties, you will also get a packet of radish seeds, a packet of beet seeds, and a packet of carrot seeds to plant as well.

Spring Gardening Planting Guide (1)

If you have any questions, please e-mail me at and I’ll be glad to help in any way I can.

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2018 Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant and Herb Seedling List


Well, winter is almost over and it’s time to think SPRING!  We have some lovely weekend weather coming up so get out there and start adding compost to those beds because in 6 short weeks it will be tomato planting time!

I’ve got 97 types of tomato seedlings this year, and a whole bunch of new peppers, and eggplant varieties as well.  click on the link below to access the list.  Remember that almost all tomato varieties are hyperlinked so you can learn about each type before you make your gardening decisions this year.  Thank you so much for your continued support…I’ve been happily providing the best tomato seedlings to KC gardeners for a dozen years now!

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My plant sale dates this year will be as follows:

Saturday, April 14th:  8 a.m. to Noon

Friday, April 20th:  5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Friday, April 27th: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 28th:  8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Friday, May 4:  5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 5:  8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Saturday, May 12:  8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

I can also be available other times if these dates do not work with your schedule.  Please e-mail me to schedule an appointment if you need one.


My home is located at 215 East 97th Street, Kansas City, MO.  Please park in my circle drive to avoid parking on the street if at all possible.



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9th Annual Tomato Tasting and 1st Annual Slow Food KC BLT Challenge

We’ve been working hard the past  few months to get this year’s tasting and the new BLT Challenge sorted out, but I think we’re ready to roll now!

The tasting will be the same as always, at the Local Pig on August 5th at 9 a.m.  The event will be free, family friendly and open to the public.  All we ask is that you bring a tomato themed dish to share, labeled ripe tomatoes from your garden, or other side dishes you think folks would enjoy.

Last year we had over 200 attendees and a lot of tomatoes to taste!  We hope to fill the East Bottoms with tomato lovers on the first Saturday morning in August!


After the family friendly tomato tasting is over, we’ll have our first BLT Challenge!  This will be a Slow Food KC event and will be a fundraiser for Slow Food KC and the Veterans Community Project with proceeds going to help build and maintain therapy gardens for homeless veterans.

This event is open to adults and there is a $5 donation to submit your BLT to be judged.  There will be trophies for the top scoring varieties and each competitor will be entered into a  drawing for some fantastic prizes!

Judging will be for adults only as well and will require a $25 donation.  You may enter the competition and judge the competition as well.

100% of all donations will go to Slow Food KC and the Veterans Community Project to build and maintain therapy gardens for homeless veterans.

Details about entering as a competitor and/or a judge can be found by clicking here:

2017 BLT Challenge Official Rules and Information.


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I was featured in a KC Star article yesterday…very exciting!!!

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Revised Tomato and Pepper List

I sorted through my plants and have revised the list to reflect what I have in stock.  I have only a couple of some varieties, plenty of others….still a good selection.  Plants are still small, but growing well and waiting for some warm, sunny weather (aren’t we all!?!?)

It’s looking like this weekend and next week will be time to plant…the ground is soggy from all the rain, so make sure your soil dries out a bit before working in it.

I’ll be open this Saturday from 8-noon.  I can also be available some evenings by appointment…just let me know.  215 East 97th Street, KCMO.


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2017 Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant and Herb List


Well that magical moment you’ve all been waiting for since the first frost of fall last year has finally arrived…THE LIST!!!


I have taken the time to do some categorizing and hyperlinking of almost all of the varieties, so please click on them and learn about each type as you make your selections this year.  Bring your own printed list and containers to take your plants home in and receive a free plant of your choice!

Remember that I am no longer taking pre-orders as it takes up a lot of time that I no longer have.

Plants will be on a first come, first served basis starting April 16th.  The plants may be a bit small then, but will be full sized by the first week of May when they are ready to plant in your gardens.

Sale dates will be as follows at my home (215 East 97th Street, KCMO)

Sunday, April 16 — 7 a.m. to Noon.

Saturday, April 22 — 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday, April 23 — 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Saturday, April 29 — 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sunday, April 30 — 8 a.m. to Noon

Saturday, May 6 — 8 a.m. to noon

Weeknight evening sales after April 16th are possible as well, e-mail me to schedule a specific appointment time.


P.S.  Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 5th for the 9th Annual Tomato Tasting!!!



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