Well, where did the month of May go? It’s time to think about what you should be doing in the yard during the earliest part of June.
Every year, people ask me if it is too late to plant annuals and vegetables during early June. Of course not!
If you look back at the month of May this year, it was so cold and rainy that planting usually resulted in your plants being stunted or, in some cases, damaged by windburn or low temperatures.
For many years, gardeners and farmers used the timeline of planting warm-weather vegetables and annual flowers around Memorial Day. Since Memorial Day has just barely come and gone, there is still plenty of time to put in your vegetable garden or to pot up those window boxes.
I usually bring this up a couple of times per planting season, and I definitely try to bring this up every year. Have you ever taken the time to read the tag that comes with the tomato plants that you buy at the garden center? If you did, you would have noticed that the planting directions say to plant the tomato plants 3 feet apart in rows 3 feet apart.
Most people aren’t planting rows of tomato plants, but this “fine print” should make you realize that tomato plants need a lot of room to grow. You can plant this tiny plant at this time of the year, and by late June, you have this huge plant. The plant will grow tall and wide, and it will have a root system as wide as the plant.
Many of you will grow your tomato plants in containers. I have talked to many people who will plant three tomato plants in a whiskey barrel planter or put one tomato plant in a 10- or 12-inch pot. If you do this, you are setting yourself up for a problem with your plants down the road.
I have found that to successfully grow a tomato plant that gives you a good yield, you need to put one tomato plant in a pot that is 16 inches or larger in size. If you are growing any of the large fruited varieties, a 24-inch pot would not be out of the question.
When you try to put three tomato plants in a whiskey barrel, the root system of each plant is competing with the roots of the other plants for water and food. Since the battle goes on all season, each plant doesn’t get the proper amount of water and food to produce a good crop that ripens in a timely manner.
You will find that if you put one tomato plant in a whiskey barrel and put three plants in another whiskey barrel, the barrel with one plant will give you more tomatoes that will ripen sooner than you will get from the three tomato plants in the other barrel. You will also find that putting one tomato plant in a smaller-size pot will give you a very low yield of tomatoes.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you fill those large pots with soil, many people will cut corners and put some large quantity of filler material in the bottom of the pot to save money on potting soil. When you do this, it is the same as using a smaller-size pot. The roots of the tomato plants need that whole pot filled with potting soil. The roots will fill the entire pot, and those roots need a lot of soil capacity to hold the water and nutrients the plant will need to grow a successful crop.
Every year, I had customers who came into the garden center with tomatoes that had big black patches on the bottom. This is called blossom end rot. The reason this happens is because at the time the blossoms are setting fruit, the soil moisture goes from wet to dry too often and this causes a calcium deficiency that creates the blossom end rot.
Tomato plants need a steady supply of water. When you grow them in containers, it is critical that you keep the soil moist from the top of the container to the bottom of the container.
Those hot and sunny days of summer can make it hard to keep the soil moist. If you skimped on the size of the pot and the quantity or quality of the soil, you are going to be setting yourself up for a lot of heartache with your tomato crop.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.
Tim Lamprey has worked in the lawn and garden industry for 45 years.