TO GROW GREAT TOMATOES:
- Plant in the garden after temperatures have stabilized at 20C in the day and 10C at night.
- Mulch around the base of the plants to prevent rain from splashing the lower leaves and the plants developing blossom end rot with uneven water management.
- Never water with cold water.
- Use 15-30-20 fertilizer for maximum fruit production.
- If weather does not warm up, consider placing some in large containers and pots. Pots will always be warmer than soil conditions and can be moved indoors if a frost threatens.
- When choosing varieties to grow, consider some that like it hot and some that like it cool. Remember that tomato plants cannot take freezing even when it says that they are cold-hardy.
- To stake or not to is an individual choice. Just remember to lay mulch on the ground if you are not staking so that the fruits are clean. Remember that in a hot summer crickets LOVE tomatoes, too.
HOW TO GROW GREAT POTATOES:
- Prepare area for planting the fall before by working over the soil and raising it, at least 12″. A preferred size would be 36″ x 8 or 10 ft. This way the area will dry sooner and the soil will warm up quicker.
- Consider using different structures for growing your potatoes in: tiered layers of tires, raised beds, large drainage free pots or unused cold frames.
- In the spring, as soon as the soil can be worked (after the frost has left the soil) incorporating super aged (2 years old+) manure or compost generously on the planned spot and work in modestly.
- Look over your seed potatoes for any rot or damaged spots and remove these.
- Select ALWAYS your best specimens (…NOT YOUR SMALLEST!) Do not cut them up, unless they contain more than 12 eyes. Remember the more eyes you plant, the more stems of potatoes you will have!
- Place them in the warm sun for several weeks before you plan on planting to cause the eyes to grow larger and multiply. Never leave them outside for the night, while you are doing this.
- When daytime temperatures indicate consistent period of warmth and the nights promise to stay over 10C (soil temps are always 6 degrees cooler than air temps…) then it is safe to plant. Cold soils will just stagnate the growing process.
- Plant tubers at least 2 ft. apart (in either a trench 8″ deep or just press into the soil…) in either a grid or diamond pattern to take advantage of the space. If using a thick mulch, place just under the mulch, directly on the surface of the soil.
- Always monitor the amount of moisture the area is receiving to ensure that the sprouts you encouraged, start forming roots beneath.
- You can beat “adverse weather” by covering the area (right after planting…) with a thick layer (?6″) of dark mulch, like coarse wood chips to: attract heat and yet protect ( to use as a cover) the small protruding shoots in the event of an unforeseen killing late spring frost.
- The thick layer will do 4 things: provide protection; retain moisture; slow down and distribute the force of too much rain and in the event of a sudden onset of drying hot weather…keep the tubers and roots cool.
- It is acceptable to fertilize with organic fertilizers, every 2 weeks until potato tops start showing some yellow color, indicating they want to slow down, or the nights are getting much cooler…or it is late summer.
- Monitor their immediate area each week for any aggressive weed growth and remove as soon as possible so they do not enter into seed stage (spreading their unwanted gremlins around)!
- If not using a heavy mulch, it would be advised to hoe gently around the plants and hill up some soil to keep the newly forming tubers from being exposed to any sunlight (Greening).
- Some varieties will afford you to “steal” a few young tubers like the “Norland”, as they are an early variety, stopping their growth sooner than most others.
- When the tops have died down or late fall has arrived, it is time to harvest your bounty. Be extremely careful to not pierce any tubers with a spading fork. Start digging far enough away…bearing in mind that tubers could be found almost 1 or 2 feet away! If the soil is soft enough, maybe using your hands or a small trowel may work. Some varieties (like the Russian Blue and French Fingerlings) have vines that have been known to travel as far as 5ft. (…esp. under a straw mulch)!
- Do not bang tubers against each other to loosen dirt, as this will cause severe bruising and rot later. Place, do not throw tubers into wheelbarrow or pails. These are living things!
- The onus to wash or not is up to the individual. Not washing leaves a natural protective coating on the tubers…providing the soil left them quite clean. On the other hand, too much sticky soil could cause problems later, when trying to wash them, as it will be difficult to remove for peeling (speaking from experience…)
- Let the tubers dry real well…for about 2 to 3 days (completely out of direct sunlight) but with good air movement. Place in wooden apple baskets, lined with several layers of paper or cloth. Store in a cool place, with temps. over 4C at all times, but less than 10C., with fair movement of air and not too much humidity.
- Use the varieties as intended, using up early varieties first and late season varieties last. Some store well and others do not. Make sure you know which is which. Good Luck!