Time to Start Tomatoes!

Discussion in 'Dining and Food' started by rapunzel, Feb 21, 2009.

  1. rapunzel

    rapunzel Beach Fanatic

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    I have been thrilled to be taking the Master Gardener class at the Walton County Extension Office, and am getting so excited about building a vegetable garden. I am a tomato junkie, and so my focus will be tomatoes this first year.

    I am going to attempt a few heirloom varieties (Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, and Mortgage Lifter) but have been forewarned that getting fruits off these plants will be an uphill battle in this area given the sandy soil and the preponderance of nematodes around here. I understand that organic fertilizers, particularly blood meal, may help control nematodes. Still, I'm thinking I'd like to try out a couple of the tomato varieties recommended by the vegetable gardening expert in the area -- the agent out of Santa Rosa county.

    The agent recommended three varieties -- Christa, Fletcher, and Quincy. All were developed for the area and are resistant to multiple wilts as well as nematodes.

    My first question is whether anyone has tried Christa, Fletcher, or Quincy tomatoes and can tell me how they taste. The whole point of growing them is to get better tasting tomatoes than I can buy at Publix.

    Second, these seeds are only sold by commercial growers and come in packages of 1000. Would anyone want to split an order with me?
     
  2. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    That's awesome. Watch out for the Hornworms.

    [​IMG]They will devistate your crop if you don't control them. There are plenty of organic methods of control found online, and speaking from experience pinching them between your fingers gets old after a while. If you want some good tips on local gardening, you need to go visit Woody (on Bay Drive, the folk artist). The has a great garden, and he isn't afraid to share his secrets with good people. Also, T Cline posted a good link on gardening in NW FL, which looked like it had some good info, and had some good advice on growing tomatoes -- use containers with good potting soil.

    Others may not know one of the commitments of becoming a Master Gardner -- Master Gardeners must commit to giving back, by sharing their knowledge with the community. I hope that you will be sharing more gardening tips, because I've always just winged it, and some plants are hits, and others are total misses.
     
  3. rapunzel

    rapunzel Beach Fanatic

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    I hate hornworms. They were terrible in New Orleans, too. I was trying to be organic, and bought some nicotine pesticide to spray them. The sprayer leaked a little, and my hand and arm to my elbow were numb for three days. So, tips on organic pest control would be fabulous.

    I know containers are the best bet, but I really want to do some real in earth gardening. I need to figure out a way to get a load of mushroom compost before the plant closes. I just love the way an orderly, loved vegetable garden looks in the landscape.

    As for that giving back stuff, you know I love nothing more. So far, the most important thing I think I've learned is the importance of the soil test. Our soil leaches nutrients quickly, so it can get out of balance with commercial fertilizers. Plus, the water that comes from the county is from deep aquifers, and is very alkaline, so it can throw off pH and make the nutrients that are in the soil unavailable to the plant. So, get a soil test first! If you don't want to drive to DeFuniak, pm me -- I head up every Thursday and will be glad to help you.

    The other thing, if you are using fertilizer DON'T use the balanced formulas. If the package says 13-13-13, it's not good for your sandy soil. Use it once a year, but then switch to something low with a low middle number. The sort of blind recommendation is a 15-0-15, or 15-0-7. And we all need lots of composted organic material to retain moisture.

    SJ, I'm starting way more seeds than I have room for...would you like to have some starter plants from the heirlooms so we can compare and figure out which is best?
     
  4. grace

    grace Beach Fanatic

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    Try growing in pots.
     
  5. grace

    grace Beach Fanatic

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    what?????
     
  6. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    Heck yes, I would! Thanks. As I understand it, the Moth (which was once a hornworm) lays her eggs in the ground. Those eggs hatch into the Hornworm and make crawl up into the plant. Having your maters in containers (like 5gal buckets) will prevent the worms from climbing into the plant, unless your plant is dragging the ground. I believe you can also spray the plant with a light mix of Joy and water, but don't use anything with a degreaser, just plain old "Joy" and water.
     
  7. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    Oh, yes, one tip given to me by a local with an outstanding garden, is to dig out the sand about a 2 ft deep. Then, fill about 1 ft deep with clay, then add the mushroom compost on top. The clay holds in the nutrients, where the sand would have leached the nutrients from the compost rather quickly. Be careful with the fresh mushroom compost, and let it settle out before planting, or else it will burn your plants.
     
  8. DD

    DD SoWal Expert

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    Punzy, congratulations to you! You'll find nothing more satisfying or frustrating than vegetable gardening. I can't do it where I live. Too much shade in the back and mr. dd refuses to let me dig up the front yard. :roll:I loved what you said about an orderly, loved vegetable garden. Please keep us posted on how it's going.:clap:
    p.s. I hate those worms too. :angry:
     
  9. Matt J

    Matt J SWGB

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    Apparently buried kiddy pools make great gardens; prevents weeds, holds in water, and prevents your soil from becoming sandy again.

    We planted a bunch of stuff the other day. Will trade herbs, peppers, and onions for tomatoes. :wave:
     
  10. rapunzel

    rapunzel Beach Fanatic

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    If anyone knows where to find the old fashioned, hard plastic kiddie pools, please advise!
     
  11. Groovegirls

    Groovegirls Beach Fanatic

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    It sounds like you have been doing your homework. The knowledge will prove to be invaluable! I have been landscaping professionally and personally for most of my life and one thing I have learned is to do all the hard work before you plant. Do the research, clean out the weeds, add the compost... You can go to the extreme and customize your ph and micro nutrients to each crop if you want and it will pay off but short of making a career of your garden you can do quite well with your own common sense. Water: water at the base of the plant and not during the heat of the day. Trim the leaves that hang close to the ground to reduce disease and pests. Add the compost, use mulch... you know the basic stuff we always run out time to do. Gardening organically here can be a challenge but it can be done. I like to use raised beds but I have done well with tomatoes in containers too. I usually bury the bottom few inches of the pot because it makes a huge difference in water retention (you could also put them in the kiddie pool for easy watering). I can recommend two organic fertilizers that work for me. I use them both for almost everthing. Milorganite is a granular low yield slow (very slow) release fertilizer. It is practically an idiot proof way to provide a steady supply of nutrients. This is perfect for any body with a brown thumb. It is practically impossible to burn or overfeed your plants. I don't even measure. I literally toss it out around almost everything. It is great for lawns too. Home Depot usually has it in stock. If you want to see your fertilizer at work, use a liquid fish fertilizer. This stuff will make your plants greener, stronger, bigger, healthier and more productive. In most cases you will literrally see a difference within a couple of days. It doesn't matter what brand but any good one will have seaweed too. If you haven't learned about seaweed in the garden yet, do it now. That stuff is amazing! Toni's off of Grayton road (283 I think) carries "fish food" and can be found a various places about town with a little searching and of course on line. I have found nothing to be completely effective against hornworms except for diligence. I usually weed and inspect and stuff a couple times a day. This allows me to treat or remove any problems before they ruin the whole garden. Hornworms and other pests can wipe you out overnight but not if you find them first. You will see where the small hornworms have been munching on the leaves before they are big enough to spot easily. I am always amazed how quickly they grow. Finally, This area is chock full of things that can ruin your tomatoes. I always plant Cherry tomatoes because they are the most reliable tomato crop. They produse a ton of tomatoes all season long. Many years I have fresh cherry tomatoes at Thanksgiving. I think they taste the best too. They aren't so great for slicing though. Happy Gardening!

    RECOMMENDED BOOK: Organic Gardening published by Rodale Press. I call it the Bible. This book has more info than the encyclopedia but far easier to understand.

    SOWALGAYBOI: I love the kiddie pool idea. I have never used it that way. Gonna use it at my moms but I will put some holes in the bottom so it doesn't hold too much water.
    RAPUNZEL: Wal mart and the like usually carry them and sometimes Southbay Ace has them too.
     
  12. Miss Kitty

    Miss Kitty Meow

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    Thanks for this thread! Y'all are inspiring! Punz...I will be there in April to help you look for those awful worms.

    Has anyone tried those upside down tomato growing bags?
     
  13. ASH

    ASH Beach Fanatic

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    When we put in out last garden, we laid down multiple layers of plain old newspaper, then put in boards to create a perimeter. Then we filled in with potting soil and fertilizer and planted. We had beans, tomatoes and peppers and it worked great.

    Since we relocated, we know have everything in large pots. We got this idea from visiting Toni's place and seeing how they had stacked pots and pots within pots. It looks great and is very efficient.

    Good luck
     
  14. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    I would use those with a bit of caution. You don't want root rot, so be sure to perforate.
     
  15. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    Thanks for the reminder, ASH. I learned that newspaper trick a couple of years ago. Shredded newspaper also works well as a mulch, and you can cover with thin layer of pine straw to dress it up. Full page newspaper makes a great organic weed block, and it's free.

    Tip for the day: Don't think that you can replace the shredded newspaper with shredded junk mail and shredded billing statements. I tried that and found the paper to be too thick to break down in a reasonable time period.
     
  16. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

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    I was lucky enough to visit Jim Horton's nursery in Ft. Walton. It is a fairyland, and he is a fountain of info. I would need directions to be able to find it again though!
     
  17. GoodWitch58

    GoodWitch58 Beach Fanatic

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    I am trying these upside down baskets for the first time this year, and I have had great luck with container gardening: I am still eating tomatoes from my container garden; and today I am having fresh collards! from containers.

    I picked the last batch of tomatoes January 23...I was going out of town for a conference, and we were having a really cold forecast. All the tomatoes were still green, but I knew the cold weather would kill them, so I picked them all and put them in the laundry room on a tray...they all ripened and taste almost as good as the very first ones did last summer. I have frozen lots and use them in soup and casserole dishes. I love fresh tomatoes! and can't wait to see if I can get more with the hanging baskets on my back porch.

    Love this thread, keep the ideas coming--had never thought about a kiddie pool.

    Rapunzel, I bet the K-Mart on PCB will have them. That store seems to have everything that I can't find anywhere else.
     
  18. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    Jim is a great guy and a true friend to all. Here's his contact info:

    James Horton
    Horticulturist
    709 Bob Sikes Blvd
    Ft Walton Beach, FL 32547

    www.JamesHorton.net
     
  19. tistheseason

    tistheseason Beach Fanatic

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    I volunteer myself as a taster to help you figure out which taste best!
     
  20. Santiago

    Santiago Beach Fanatic

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    I talked to a guy last week that had a lot of mushroom compost. I'll get you his number if you are still in the market.
     

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