, Salem, MA


February 14, 2014

North Shore Gardener: Roses are red, tomatoes will soon be, too


Now, I know you have been told over the years never to re-pot any plant deeper than it was growing. We’re told that the stem will rot. Tomatoes are one of the few exceptions to this rule. By burying the stem, you allow the plant to grow additional roots, which will nourish and stabilize a tall plant. A good, cheap container for tomato plants is a tall, one-quart paper milk carton. Punch holes in the bottom for drainage and use a clean packaged soil mixture to avoid molds and mildews. Keep your tomato plants in the sunniest location in the house that you can find. If you are growing under lights, keep the lights about 2 inches above the tops of the plant, and at that level by raising them as the plants grow. Remember that plants grown under lights need to sleep about eight hours every night, so set a timer. Give the plants plenty of water through the fruiting process. Don’t ever let them get dry. Water early in the day to avoid rot, mold and mildews. Watch out for insects. Spray, following directions carefully, or handpick the critters from each plant. Some gardeners swear by root pruning after three or four clusters of fruit have formed. This is done by digging a shovel into the ground once, about 6 inches out from the stem. The plant panics when some roots are severed and quickly ripens the fruit. It’s self-preservation because the fruit contains the seed for the next generation. Try it if you have an extra plant to experiment on.

Will you have the first tomato? You can try, but what difference does it really make if your tomatoes are a week later than your neighbors’? They will taste especially delicious because you grew them.

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