Here in Southern New England, we just had what will most likely be our last significant frost. In my little yard, that was a temp of 27.8 last night. There were frost and freeze warnings up everywhere. As a result of our warm spring, there was plenty out there to be affected. Only time will tell if it affects the fruit trees for the year.
The warmth affected me in smaller ways. I got anxious to plant and ended up getting my pepper and tomato seedlings started a few weeks earlier than I normally would. It should all end well as I tend to plant a bit earlier than many in my area. Our average last frost is May 9th here. By my records, it has been late April for the past 6 years that I have kept track. We tend to have a frost warning sometime in the second week of May, but a quick blanket over the tomatoes protects them and the frost has never actually materialized.
My mother has been gardening for as long as I can remember. Most of that gardening has taken place here. She plants out around May 15th and so do I. That gives me a good 2 weeks head start over many, who tend to wait until Memorial Day weekend.
This year, I really need that early start. My plants are getting tall and leggy. They were hitting the grow lights, so I had to move them upstairs into the front window. I’ll be ready to start hardening off later this week, when the temps hit the 70s.
We all probably have methods for planting tomatoes. I like to use crushed egg shells. Egg shells get saved all year in a bag by my kitchen sink. As they dry, I crush them up with my hands. Depending on the time of the year, those shells either go into the compost, or are used for tomato planting.
Tomatoes need calcium for good growth. Lack of calcium can cause Blossom End Rot. This is when the tomato looks healthy, except for an area of rot on the bottom. Uneven watering can cause this as well, but in general it is an inability to get the proper nutrients into the plant. The egg shells add a slow infusion of calcium into the soil as the season wears on and they break down.
When I plant tomatoes, I dig a good sized hole. A small handful of crushed egg shells goes into the bottom of the whole, along with a small amount of a balanced fertilizer. The tomato stem is then stripped of the bottom leaves and it is planted with as much of the stem buried as possible. The tomato stem will send out roots and give the plant a strong and deep root system. That deep root system will give your tomatoes a better chance of retrieving nutrients and moisture from deep in the soil. They will be more resistant to problems due to lack of water.
When the plants have been buried up to their necks, I place a cage, or pole with them to allow for supporting the growing plant. Lastly, I water them in well. Watering in a seedling is so important. Not only does it provide water to the plant, it allows the soil to come in better contact with the roots. Air pockets in the soil can cause the transplant to fail, so always water thoroughly. It won’t be long until we’re celebrating the queen of the garden!
Heather Smith writes about gardening and other interests at Heather’s Homemaking.