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Posted on 29 July 2010 by tomatocasual.com

The Tomato Chronicles – Hardening Off

hardening-offBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Hardening off is a step that many inexperienced gardeners skip as the “gardening bug” erupts as temperatures rise.

But this step is very crucial to a gardener’s success.

Hardening off is the process by which seedlings are gradually exposed to the outside environment.

Wind, temperature, and light intensity are all different outside then what the seedling is used to inside. If this step is skipped leaves get burned and the plant goes through unneeded stress that can cause death of your seedling. Hardening off is not a difficult process to fit into one’s busy schedule and in my personal opinion should take about 3 weeks total before you can safely leave them outside.

The schedule below should start Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted on 07 July 2010 by tomatocasual.com

The Tomato Chronicles: Mulching

grass-clippingsBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Mulching was never something I did as a child when I used to help my Dad in the garden.

We simply took the plants out of their pots, teased the roots, wrapped newspaper around the stem and planted them in the hole.

But when I started gardening for myself I learned the value of mulching.

Mulch creates a moisture-retaining layer for the garden. Tomatoes love this and the constant level of moisture in the soil helps prevent bottom-rot. Mulch also creates a weed barrier that saves time and reduces plant competition so that your soil resources go to the tomatoes, not the grass in your garden. Finally organic mulch builds stronger tomato plants by building organic matter up the stem.

There are 2 general types of mulch. These are organic and inorganic. The organic mulch can be broken into grass clippings and straw while the inorganic mulch is red plastic. Each type of mulch has its positives and negatives so individual situations will have to be considered.

Organic Mulch

Grass Clippings

Grass clippings are great, cheap Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted on 27 May 2010 by tomatocasual.com

The Tomato Chronicles: Supporting Your Friends

supportBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Tomatoes and people are very much alike.

During sometime of their life they need a little support.

People sometimes need financial support, sometimes moral support and sometimes physical support that only the touch of human can bring.

Tomatoes are much the same. We gardeners plant them in the best soil, feed them the best food and mulch them to keep them comfortable but after all that they still need support.

In the past years I have used many different types of supports from tomato cages, tomato stakes and a trellis last year. Each type of support had pros and cons and never really served my need.

My plants out grew my support much like human children but this year I am going to try something different. I am going to try an old chain link fence. I got this idea from a garden catalog that showcased a red plastic fence that could be used year after year.

To be honest it looked like the caution fencing used at construction sites and since I am an avid recycler I decided to try my chain link fencing as my tomato support this year. If you have interest in using this idea it is simple but if not there are some other ideas for supports below.

Chain Link Fence Support

Steps

1. Place post in ground where you Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted on 02 May 2010 by tomatocasual.com

Tomato Chronicles – Preparing the Bed

containerBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Read Part 1

Containers allow the non-gardener, urban gardener or just the time-restrained gardener to have a “garden bed.”

They can come in all shapes and sizes from ones made of plastic or terra cotta, potting soil bags, to Topsy Turvy planters that can be homemade or store bought.

But regardless of what container you choose cleaning is an essential part of successful gardening.

Cleaning containers

Supplies

  • Containers
  • Bleach
  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Scrub brush

Steps

1. Mix in Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted on 28 April 2010 by tomatocasual.com

Tomato Chronicles – Preparing the Bed

tomato-farm.JPGBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

As the old saying goes, “You made your bed so lie in it.”

This is true for a gardener because the success or failure of your season depends on the type of “bed” one prepares.

If your “garden” area is conducive to disturbing the turf then you have 4 ways of doing this.

Each technique has its pros and cons and some may take time before results are produced. But if you do not live in an area where you choose not or cannot disturb the turf part 2 will describe a way to plant your tomatoes in an alternative “bed.”

Methods 1,2, and 4 require equipment so before starting one of these methods check to make sure you have or can rent the needed tools. Note please make sure tools are sharp and the right length for the user or are ergonomically designed. Both of these hints will help reduce back strain and muscle soreness from the work.

Before you choose your method of bed preparation one needs to Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted on 18 April 2010 by tomatocasual.com

The Tomato Chronicles – Transplanting

transplantingBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Transplanting is one of those crucial tasks that can make or break a gardener.

This task can be made easier and more successful if these simple steps are followed depending on how one’s seeds were planted.

Supplies

  • Plant labels
  • Waterproof marker
  • Potting soil
  • Larger cell packs (4-packs) or containers
  • Fertilizer 5-10-10, or 10-10-10
  • Water system such as watering can or watering hose

Cell Packs

If your seeds were started in cell packs it is not a difficult tasks to transplant these seedlings. First you need to make sure they are ready to be transplanted. The determining factor is the number of leaves. Read the rest of this entry »

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