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Member discussion regarding the methods, varieties and merits of growing tomatoes.

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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #16
b54red
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I never have to worry about too much organic matter because it breaks down so fast in our warm sandy soil. Instead of cow manure, compost and mushroom compost, I added large amounts of peat to my beds this year. It seems to have helped.

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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #17
gdaddybill
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I feel like I need to elaborate some on my previous post. Getting a soil test is a good idea, especially when you're first starting to work with a new soil or soil mix. If you were growing hydroponically you'd be testing all the time. Most of us though start with a good garden soil, hopefully enriched with organic matter. Pre-plant it's often good to start with 2-4 pounds of a complete fertilizer per 100 sq ft like 15-5-10 or use an organic blend at the rate recommended on the bag. Most of us use a good organic fertilizer in the planting hole (4-4-3 for example) or you can make a starter solution with a soluble fertilizer like 20-20-20 at about 1/3 strength and a pint per plant. From here on I watch the plants and I've used everything from slow release lawn fertilizer (the cheap kind without weed killer-weed killer for turf is a no-no in the vegetable garden) to calcium nitrate. The slow release fertilizer is less likely to burn but with soluble fertilizers its best to use a little bit more often--a tablespoon per 2 ft of row, out a foot or more from the plant should be fine and water it in thoroughly. If your transplants rapidly develop stems thicker than your thumb you may be supplying too much nitrogen. Heirlooms especially seem to grow wild and forget to set tomatoes. I'm guilty of pushing too hard so--not one to lecture on the subject. Growing in containers can be a challenge but a number of Tomatovillians do it so there's lots of discussion on the subject. Good luck with your tomato patch! The BLTs are worth it.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #18
PaulF
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In Master Gardener classes, this was discussed. Master Gardener is a product of the University of Nebraska Extension. Their 'official' stance on several things on gardening I disagreed with, mostly since much of their research is in the area of farming and ranching around here.

General the statement about excess organics was at the 12 plus percentage. When asked about exceptions this was the answer:

'Adding too much is not a concern if the source of organic matter is green manures or crop residues from the same field where they are grown. However, it is possible to apply too much manure, sludge, or other rich materials. The consequences of over-application are

inefficient use of your nutrient resources,
excess soil nitrogen that harms plants or leaches into water,
excess phosphorus or other nutrients that become an environmental hazard.
Normally, application rates of manure and other organic amendments should be based on the nutrient needs of the coming year's crops. This requires testing the nutrient content of the material and your soil.

Pretty much covers the behinds and is difficult to argue with. Those folks, in my experience, never make blanket statements and always leave wiggle room. Also in my experience, our Extension specialists are really smart and are right a whole more than wrong....except when they recommend hybrids over heirlooms/OPs. Years behind the times with many now in the 'good tomato' fold especially when we have tomato tastings.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #19
SueCT
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I certainly expected the extension service to know more than me, which is why I went ahead and tried to decrease the % organic matter. It just didn't work for my tomatoes. My soil was also too alkaline, though, so maybe not all the nutrients are actually available to the plants. Anyway, I have not used any fertilizer at all in 2 or 3 years, just compost, so hopefully, the Texas Tomato Food will be OK to use. I could send off more samples before I use it just to see, but I was so disappointed in the results of relying on the first one, I am a little gun shy.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #20
PaulF
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I do rely on soil testing and pay attention to the recommendations. My tests are done by an independent lab not affiliated with our Extension. My personal method is to treat the soil for the different garden vegetables grown so that no extra fertilization is necessary except in extreme circumstances. If I am able to begin with a completely balanced soil, everything tends to fall into place.

If my plants need water, they get watered. If the soil is soggy, no extra water is added. If the plants turn colors they shouldn't turn, they get treated. I am more reactive than being proactive for conditions and situations not in evidence. Mostly nothing extra is done. Maybe I am just lazy. What works, works. My way is not necessarily the right way, only my way. My motto is: Don't think things to death.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #21
Worth1
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulF View Post
I do rely on soil testing and pay attention to the recommendations. My tests are done by an independent lab not affiliated with our Extension. My personal method is to treat the soil for the different garden vegetables grown so that no extra fertilization is necessary except in extreme circumstances. If I am able to begin with a completely balanced soil, everything tends to fall into place.

If my plants need water, they get watered. If the soil is soggy, no extra water is added. If the plants turn colors they shouldn't turn, they get treated. I am more reactive than being proactive for conditions and situations not in evidence. Mostly nothing extra is done. Maybe I am just lazy. What works, works. My way is not necessarily the right way, only my way. My motto is: Don't think things to death.
I agree.

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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #22
imp
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I agree with PaulF a lot, but I do tend to fertilize - but it depends on what I am seeing from my plants and just how brutal the weather is being this year. Each year is a bit different, but it is always hot, make that HOT here, and that does take a toll on tomatoes especially.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #23
AlittleSalt
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Sue, that's a great question.

To answer the question from my viewpoint, "Does EVERYONE fertilize their tomatoes?" No, each gardener works with what they have. There is no set way of doing anything when it comes to gardening. If we all had the same soil and growing conditions - there would be one book or pamphlet on how to do it perfectly.

I like asking questions here to see what others are doing and thinking. I'm as guilty as many others of us are about looking things up online to give advice. That's being friendly and trying to be helpful. I would like to visit Connecticut. If I had a bucket list, it would be to live and experience gardening life for years in all 50 United States - just so I could have a clue to what it's like there.

I share my gardening experiences and thoughts. Sometimes, my ideas are shot down in flames, but those ideas might work for me and my gardens. Tomatoville is in-a-way a community of like-minded gardeners who all want a great harvest. How each one of us gets there is more of an individual thing.

I went on too much and probably didn't come close to answering your question, but if I had the surefire answer for you - I would give it to you.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #24
SueCT
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I don't expect anything more than people sharing their thoughts and philosophies about it really. I was certainly not expecting a surefire answer, but I do appreciate anyone who takes the time to share what they are doing and what they think about it. I do a lot of online research as well, but I think there is more tomato growing experience right here than just about anywhere on the web, so I value the input of the community here. Turns out my extension service has free soil tests here now, so if they are not inundated, I might try again. Last time I sent it to the University and paid for it. Anyway, I like to see the range of thoughts about a subject like this from people who have a lot of experience growing tomatoes. I suspect the way someone approaches the subject might be the same even if they lived in a different part of the country. For example, some would likely only apply something if they saw a problem no matter where they lived, some would always get soil samples and some likely never would, no matter where they lived. Since I don't actually see any nutrient problems and I would just like to maximize production, I am going with Texas Tomato Food since so many people seem to like it here, and I will see what happens, if anything, after a couple of applications. I would like it better if it was organic, though. I am warming to the idea of getting another soil analysis before using it so I have "baseline" data. But I am also not going to keep dumping fertilizer into the soil once a week just to say I did when I don't see any problems or changes after I apply it. I do think I need to know the soil pH and if it has gotten any better, or I will have to see if I can get it a little more acidic by borrowing some oak leaves this fall. I wonder if my layering of compost over the years and not deeply tilling it in skewed the soil analysis. I tried to go as deep as they requested and then mix it, but I may have just gotten too much compost on top. Sorry for being so long winded but my tomato obsession is not returned by anyone I know except when I am offering free heirloom plants, so I have no one to bounce my thoughts off of, so to speak. Thanks for taking the time to reply, everyone. I enjoy reading your replies.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #25
ginger2778
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Pine and peat are also great acidifiers.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #26
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Oak leaves are initially acidic, but the compost from them is slightly alkaline. They will not acidify your soil.
Good compost though if you can wait for them to break down. They bank calcium, which is valuable up here in granite-land, not so much if you have calcaerous soil.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #27
My Foot Smells
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i am in raised beds, so i always feel like the nutrients are leeching out over the season. As evidenced by a cypress tree that was a little runt about 7 years ago (12 ft tall and scrawny), but not towers 40 feet w/ a 30 foot span. I will have to remove one 5' x 10' bed next year b/c the tree has taken over. i've never seen a healthier cypress tree.

so, i chum the beds with some plant tone during the season and a few other things. i add compost topping each year, generally, as well.

my soil test came back very acidic, so i have been adding the recommened lime too. test also said low nitrogen, but i didn't pump that UP - too scared of things going haywire. I made the mistake of boosting N and had to deal with a 15' been stalks.

If you are in the ground, i don't think things would dissapate as quickly. most seem to get by with a cover crop and maybe a light feeding..

IDK. Good topic.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #28
gorbelly
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Changing ground soil pH is tough. It's such a big buffer. Pine needles are also initially acidifiers, although only when they're green, but the soil reverts back to baseline within days. IIRC, they finally studied the soil under pine trees and compared it to local soil without pine trees, and the pH was exactly the same, even under old pines.

Not sure whether bark fines would have a greater impact. I suspect that, in soil, any impact would be temporary and limited to very close to the surface. There's probably much more impact in container mixes.

But I would say that leaves, pine needles, and bark fines, like most organic matter, do help balance pH over the long term when regularly added. Organic matter is a normalizer. It will help raise excessively acidic pH and lower excessively alkaline pH. But you have to input large amounts of it year after year.

If you have a real alkalinity problem, IIRC amending with sulfur will reliably lower pH in the short term and over the course of a growing season. Fertilizer also acidifies, but not sure how short-lived the effect is. Probably depends on the type and delivery format (granular, liquid, etc.).
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #29
Barbee
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I soil test each fall to make sure my soil is not deficient and to check ph. I add some tomato fertilizer at plant out (such as tomato tone) and work more into the soil once the tomatoes come. 2nd flush gets more added. If Im lucky enough for a 3rd flush, I add again.
My thought is that if Im going to put all the effort and work into growing, i want the most yield I can get. By seasons end and time for another soil test, i dont notice much difference in my soil test. That tells me Im not adding too much or too little fertilizer. Hope this answers your question
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #30
SueCT
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This is a mostly raised bed, lol. Built into a hill, so two sides are raised with a retaining wall to make the bed level. Over the years I just kept adding a little more fresh compost until now it is basically full. I just checked my garden journal and I started it in 2006.



[IMG]IMG_1747 by Susan Albetski, on Flickr[/IMG]
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