Along with ‘the nicest lawn on the block’, I don’t think there is much more quintessential of a horticultural competition among neighbors than ‘who can produce the first tomato of the season’. However, it’s only fair if the tomatoes are started at the same time. Some contests could require the participants to grow their plants from seed, while others may be pretty much a free-for-all! Buying a large 1 gallon container with a 2 month old tomato plant in it would definitely give someone an opportunity to be weeks ahead in the competition - just say’n.
My Dad got us boys going in the right direction when starting our gardens. Looking back, it was like Tom Sawyer convincing his friends to help whitewash the fence. Dad had his system down on growing tomato plants. As I recall from decades past, here’s what we were taught and is still my tomato planting routine today:
Row Spacing - We used a 4’ piece of lathe to measure between the rows. This gave us enough room to cultivate the garden before the plants grew too large. It came down to about 3’ between the plants.
Fertilizer - We always used starter fertilizer at planting time at a very specific rate of 2 glugs per gallon. The liquid fertilizer that Dad had us using is no longer available. Today, I use ferti-lome Blooming and Rooting Water Soluble Plant Food at 1 tablespoon per gallon. The high level of phosphorus in Blooming and Rooting develops a strong root system early and sets flower buds as well. During the season, we added a side dressing of ferti-lome Gardener’s Special, applied monthly. We used just a pinch on each plant. It’s the same product today as it was then, because it just works.
Varieties - We would always plant an assortment of var ieties. My go-to var ieties today are (always) Jet Star, Cherokee Purple, Large Red Cherry, and Early Girl - a great early crop for the competition. Then I’ll walk the tomato display at the store and pick out at least 6 other var ieties just for fun. All of these var ieties are indeterminate var ieties, meaning they will be large growing plants. Determinate var ieties are shorter plants, well suited for containers and small spaces, which I like to use on the patio.
Placement, Mulch & Water - Plant tomatoes in full sun if possible. Mulch with wheat straw and try to keep the foliage dry when watering, or water early in the day to allow the foliage to dry before the nighttime hours.
With dozens of var ieties of tomatoes in stock now, we're ready for you to come pick up some of your old favorites and try something new.
Your friend in the garden,
Owner - Johnson's Garden Center
Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes.