I briefly mentioned our tomato planting system in my previous post, but thought i would give a little more detail about the whole process.
We received the plants this week from Goodness Grows who did an amazing job with them and grew some very healthy and happy plants for us. We had them grow eleven varieties of tomatoes with such great names as Black Prince or Jeanne Flamme or Brandywine. We have a total of 325 plants to put in the ground, so we will be working on that for a while as each plants gets a lot of attention, so the process is a bit slow.
First off, we have laid out lines in the market garden so that the plants are all planted in a straight line. This doesn’t just look good, but it makes watering, weeding and harvesting much easier. Plus, we are going to lay down drip irregation, and the straight lines will make that an easy job to accomplish.
We are planting the plants in rows of fifty plants, spaced at 4 feet apart, and the rows spaced at 15 feet apart. This might seem like a lot, but we are going to plant all of our peppers in between the rows of tomato plants, and we want plenty of space for the afore mentioned watering, weeding and harvesting.
Once we had the lines all laid out, the planting process begins, and this starts with a hole. And its a pretty darn big hole for a plant that;s only about 8 inches tall. We go about 16 inches deep and 12 inches wide. We want this hole to be so big because we want to amend as much soil with nutrients as possible to give the tomatoes the optimal environment. But before we do that, we fill the hole with water and let it drain. This ensures that there is plenty of water deep into the ground so that the roots will grow down. If the soil deep down is dry, and we water the plats, the roots will curl and grow up to the surface, which is bad for the plant and therefore bad for us.
While the holes are draining, we transfer the soil that we removed to a large, shallow pan, and remove all the large rocks. We can’t get them all, as we would never be done with it, but we try to get the majority. We then add a custom fertilizer mix consisting of a 2-4-2 nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous mix, some more rock phosphate, kelp meal and oyster shells. This mix provides a wide spectrum of nutrients for the tomato plant. We mix this in very well, and then dump a small amount into the bottom of the drained hole. We then sprinkle a small amount of mycorrhizae fungus directly on the root ball. Mycorrhizae?? This is a naturally acuring fungus that lives on almost all plants roots. It works with the plant to increase it’s ability to absorb water and nutrients from the soil and through that help, it increases the health and the yield of the plant. So even though it takes quite a while to get one plant into the ground, it will be totally worth it when we are swimming in tomatoes come August!
Once this is is all done, we give the plant a final watering and move on to the next. we have done 50 thus far, so there are a few more holes to dig yet, but we have new volunteers with more on the way, so we have plenty of hands to make this go quickly. If it would just stop raining....