Here are the Tips we came up with during the first
Seed Library Talk
Tips For Growing Tomatoes
The tomato is native to western South America and Central America. In 1519, Cortez discovered tomatoes growing in Montezuma's gardens and brought seeds back to Europe where they were planted as ornamental curiosities, but not eaten.
Most likely the first variety to reach Europe was yellow in color, since in Spain and Italy they were known as pomi d'oro, meaning yellow apples. Italy was the first to embrace and cultivate the tomato outside South America.
Practice crop rotation when planting all your vegetables. A 4 or 5 year rotation is the best to help prevent disease and insect problems.
Plant your tomatoes deeper than what they came in the pot. Tomatoes will form roots all along the stems and more roots make a stronger plant.
Grow several varieties – some will work better than others or may be less susceptible to disease or you may like the taste of some better than others.
Grow where they have at least 4 hours of sunlight, more is better.
Support plants with stakes or cages.Don’t mulch until the soil warms – tomatoes need heat. They won’t really grow until the soil and air temperatures are warm. You can speed things up by covering the planting area with black or red plastic mulch a couple weeks before planting. You can lift the plastic before planting but there is some research that says the red plastic increases yields.
Never water the plant, only the soil. The leaves and stems don’t like getting wet and it may encourage disease. Water deeply while the fruits are developing. When the fruit is ripening you can ease up on the watering. Less water will concentrate the sugars for better flavor, but don’t let the plants wilt or they will drop their blossoms.
Keep tomatoes evenly moist and not too much to avoid split fruit. Rule of thumb is one inch a week, but if hot dry weather or if grown in pots they will need more.
Every week or so when flowering start giving plants a seaweed or fish emulsion feed, or a weak all-purpose fertilizer. Less nitrogen is better.
Pinch out any shoots that develop between the stem and main branches – they take up energy from the plant developing fruit.
Once your plants are about 3 feet tall, remove the leaves from the bottom foot of stem. These are the oldest leaves and usually the first to get fungus problems. The bottom leaves get the least light and air flow and soil borne pathogens can easily splash up onto them.
Cut off the top of the plant when six trusses of fruit set. This helps to focus the plant’s energy.
Pick off the leaves around the tomatoes when they’ve reached full size, but haven’t changed color yet. This gets sun to the fruit to increase air flow and minimize disease.
Good Companion plants with tomatoes
NOTE: There are a lot of things that can impact the effectiveness of plant companions, so don't expect magic. Companion planting is part experience, part folklore, and part wishful thinking. Most companion planting teachings are passed down by gardeners who experimented with pairing plants and had some success.
- Basil repels insects and disease, improves growth and flavor. Repels mosquitoes and flies (even fruit flies).
- Borage improves growth and flavor and repels tomato worms.
- Bee balm, chives, dill, mint and parsley improve health and flavor. Use dill early since mature dill starts to inhibit tomato growth.
- Carrots planted near tomatoes may not get as large as they should, but they'll still taste good.
- Garlic repels red spider mites. Garlic sprays help control late blight.
- Stinging nettle nearby improves taste.
- Sow thistle aids growth.
Bad companion plants with tomatoes
· Cabbage (Brassica) family - stunt the growth of tomato plants, (including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, and turnip).
· Corn - - The corn earworm is the same as the tomato fruit worm. (Also known as the cotton bollworm.)
· Dill -- Mature dill plants, as mentioned above, will start to inhibit tomato plant growth. Plant the dill you want to go to seed away from your tomatoes.
· Eggplant, peppers and potatoes - These plants are in the same family as tomatoes and are all susceptible to early and late blight, which will build up in the soil and get worse each year. Avoid planting them near each other or in place of each other for at least 3 years. Also planting tomatoes near potatoes can make the potatoes more susceptible to potato blight.
· Fennel - Inhibits tomato plant growth.
· Walnuts - Don't plant tomatoes under walnut or butternut trees, which produce an chemical called juglone that inhibits the growth of tomatoes (and all the members of the nightshade).
How to Grow Peas and Beans
The pea is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world. Although its origin is obscured in history, peas were found in excavations in Switzerland dating to the Bronze Age and in an Egyptian tomb at Thebes. Peas were popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans. In fact, the word 'peas' is a derivation of the Latin 'pisum.' The Anglo-Saxon word for peas was 'pise' or 'pease' as in the nursery rhyme, 'pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold.'
Peas thrive in cool weather and young plants will tolerate light frosts. Once germinated, peas adapt well to the cold, damp climate of early spring. Peas must be planted as early as possible in the spring to get a full harvest before hot summer temperatures arrive and put an end to production.
Unlike peas, beans cannot tolerate any frost. Plant after all danger of frost has passed. Beans like hot weather and full sun, but if too hot will slow production.
Peas don’t need much fertilizer. Too much nitrogen will only produce leaves not pods.
Water deeply once a week or more if hot and dry. Peas and beans need moisture to produce.
Like other members of the legume family, peas and beans have a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobia bacteria that colonize the roots of the plants and help them 'fix' nitrogen in the soil. After soaking the seeds overnight in lukewarm water, drain them and sprinkle an inoculant over them just before planting. This will boost the pea plants and produce higher yields.
Pick beans frequently to encourage a larger harvest.
Beans have shallow roots and can’t compete with weeds, so weed regularly. Mulch helps.
Practice crop rotation to prevent insects and disease.
Companion Plants for beans and peas
Marigolds repel insects
Celery repels butterflies
Other companion plant interactions – planting beans next to potatoes improves potatoes as beans fix nitrogen in the soil
How to Grow Lettuce
Keep soil evenly moist at all times, watering every other day if necessary. If lettuce doesn’t get enough water it tastes bitter.
Lettuce like nitrogen so feed with an organic fertilizer at least once during the growing season.
Lettuce likes pulverized soil, similar to carrots.
Harvest in the morning before the heat of the day stresses the plants.
Plan your garden so lettuce will be shaded by taller plants during the heat of the day.
Practice crop rotation to prevent insects and diseases.
Lettuce is a cool weather crop. Plant as soon as soil can be worked in the spring and plant again 6 weeks before first frost in the fall.
Sow cold tolerant buttehead or romaine lettuce 4 weeks before first frost.
Leaf lettuce can be grown in pots, just keep moist at all times.