Growing tomatoes is one of the great pleasures of living in the south. Most years they are easy to grow and almost every house has enough sunshine and dirt to grow a bountiful crop somewhere.
Today we planted eight plants which will give us more than we will ever be able to eat.
My goal is to have ripe tomatoes by the Fourth of July which is a little bit of a challenge up on the mountain.
We've done it before, and this year we have the plants in the ground about one week early and the soil seems relatively warm which is very important in getting a good start.
Assuming we have the right amount of warmth, we have a good chance of having that first tomato sandwich before the Fourth. One of my cardinal rules for growing tomatoes is that you have to get your hands dirty and feel the dirt. In fact feeling the dirt tells you if it is too cool or too wet. We have been growing tomatoes in the same spot for many years so our dirt is in great shape. It crumbles easily and we control disease by a meticulous clean-up at the end of the season.
Originally we dug out most of the dirt and replaced it. For several years we tilled it and worked it. Now we just stick a shovel in, make a hole about the size of a large coffee cup, put in the bottom of the hole about a cup or two of very well rotted cow manure and a sprinkle of Osmocote.
Then using my hands I mix the dirt I have taken out of the hole with the manure and fertilizer and put the tomato plant in the hole and pat the dirt around it while making a slight depression around the plant so it will be easy to water.
You do not have to make a large hole unless you have a tomato plant that is so large that you need to put it partially in a trench.
Just make certain that you really make a connection with the soil. It's good for the soul and will make you appreciate all the effort that goes into growing our food. Mixing the soil with your hands is good for the soul.
After transplanting, the plants need to be well watered immediately. After a week or so, I start using Miracle-Gro soluble tomato fertilizer a couple of times a month. As the plants get bigger we stake them, but I will record that a little later just so this is complete guide to tomatoes for my kids.
You can choose to use completely natural fertilizers if you want, we have done that many times, but find that with our well cared for soil, this compromise method works very well.