Reading Leaves

Oh, crap.It’s always something. Each week these spoiled beasts receive a dose of fish emulsion or compost tea. (They also live in cushy organic soil that was further enriched with a generous handful of worm casings at planting.)

After consulting a few trusted sources, it appears as though this Isis Candy has something of a nutrient deficiency. Magnesium, perhaps? It may not affect the yield (fingers crossed) but we do hope that some epsom salts will do the trick.

Tell POD Tomato Miracle Gro is bad. Tell POD to be strong and resist the urge.

Suckers!

Isis Candy Cherry Tomato Sucker
Isis Candy Cherry Tomato Sucker

To prune or not to prune?

In the past, POD’s allowed tomatoes to do their own crazy thing. (Largely because my tomatoes usually come down with early blight and need to be pruned dramatically out of necessity.) This year, however, this sucker is doing some modest experimental pruning.

First, determine if your tomato is a determinate or indeterminate.

This Isis Candy is an indeterminate — which means it’ll keep growing and growing (ideally). Which also means it may benefit from a little pruning. Chocolate Cherry, also planted on deck this year, is also an indeterminate; however, that one’s gonna’ be free to run wild.

Isis Candy Cherry Tomato Sans Suckers
Isis Candy Cherry Tomato Sans Suckers

After consulting several trusted sources (all of these links will refer you to university horticultural extensions — the third link may be the best) pruning commenced.

NOTE: Determinate tomatoes are much more compact and produce most of their fruit in one glorious spurt. Some gardeners prune them modestly, some don’t. This year, POD’s keeping paws off the gold nugget, the only determinate on deck.

Plants On Deck

Today was a busy day for the little blue deck. Tomatoes (Black Cherry, Isis Candy, and Gold Nugget made the cut — alas, my Kellogg’s Breakfast and Dwarf Tims didn’t do so well as seedlings and were scrapped), beans, (more) lettuce, carrots, oregano, basil, and orange cosmos were all planted.

Unfortunately, Philly’s expecting a week of rain and evening lows in the upper 40’s; so it’s not necessarily ideal, but the tomato seedlings were straining at the seams of their seeding container. And this gardener was sick of hardening. If you can wait until next weekend, by all means, do. Anyway, in preparation for the big day the seedlings were doused fairly generously with water so they’d come out of their containers fairly easily — which one hopes will help reduce transplanting trauma.

The cucumber, pepper, and melon seedlings will join rejoin their friends in a week or two, after the evening lows have risen a tad.

Black Cherry Tomato Seedling
Black Cherry and the Knife

This black cherry gets to call the container filled with 28 lbs of Organic Mechanics dirt home for the next 5 months. The soil acclimated to outdoor temperatures for a week and was augmented with a few eggshells for additional calcium, and a few handfuls of worm castings were mixed in as well. To help the seedling free itself from the bonds of its nursery, run the knife around the perimeter of the container and…

Transplanting Black Cherry
Free the Tomato!

…Gently shake the seedling into your hand.

Black Cherry Strips Down

Tomatoes are one of the few fruits (or vegetables) that actually like to be planted below the soil line. That is, below the point where your seedling meets its original dirt. Strip the leaves that will be buried from the stem and set your seedling deep into its pot. This strengthens the primary stalks and roots will sprout from the submerged stem.

Planted Black Cherry Tomato Seedling
Yippie!

Here, the black cherry has been surrounded with luscious seaweed-enriched mulch (to prevent splash back and, one hopes, diseases) and lettuce seeds have been planted around the perimeter of the container.

Planted Black Cherry Tomato Seedling
Caged Black Cherry