By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
I have lived by a motto that every Boy Scout knows and that is to “always be prepared.”
When it comes to the tomato garden, this means always having stakes, pots, Epsom salt and powdered milk available along with an all-purpose potting soil mix and fresh seeds.
While I typically save my seeds from year to year, sometimes I have to buy new stock.
Once I have all my supplies together, I can take an inventory of what I have and what I need. This gives me direction and helps me start off the season right.
In the past when I was low on flats or small containers to start my tomato seeds in, I created “newspaper” pots. These pots are easy to make and I have to admit a great way of keeping kids busy during the gloomy days of winter.
One year, my family and I had a container making party. While this may sound boring or odd, it is one of those activities that my kids have never forgotten. We showcased the day of container making with a dinner that was cooked in terra cotta pots. Everything was container related and at the end, we marked our container day by decorating a terra cotta pot for that year’s planting giveaway.
To this day, I know the neighbor that received the hand decorated pot full of planted vegetables. It brings a smile to my face when I see it sitting on her front stoop 12 years later.
But regardless of what type of container you plan to use to start your tomatoes in, make sure that it has been washed and dried. After that is done, it is time to fill it with a good all-purpose potting soil. Some tomato hobbyists feel the way to go is not through a store-bought planting medium but instead through a secret recipe for a tomato planting medium. While creating your own designer soil for your tomatoes is great, I have found that a simple, well-seasoned compost mixed with a good quality potting soil is sufficient.
After the soil and container has been gathered and prepared, the next step is planting the seeds. While all the supplies needed to start tomatoes are important, the quality of the seed is the most. If you have seed that is a couple of years old, do a viability test of the seed. This will prevent you from wasting your time planting seed that will not germinate.
Now you have all the tools and supplies needed to start off the tomato season right. So until we blog again, remember that planning is a just important as rain and fertilizer to the success of any gardening season.