Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ask Us/Tell Us

With three summers of tomato farming under our belts, we've seen just about every disaster, disease and disorder possible with our plants. We'll share our remedies on this site. If you have had any experiences and have thoughts or tips, please post 'em here!

Vitamins and Minerals are for plants too!

We found out that tomatoes need fertilizer in our second growing season (2006). That may seem obvious, but we didn't have a mineral deficiency problem in our first year. We used Miracle Grow soil and cruised. But when we found purple and black spots on our leaves last year, it meant we needed to put phosphorus on the menu.

Saiffee Hardware on 7th St. and 1st Ave. in Manhattan had the goods. Hoffman's Tomato Food 5-10-10 includes the proper balance of phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium and restored our babies to health.

This year we were prepared with Hoffman's when the spots showed up. However, next season, we'll start feeding them before the problems start and continue with regular fertilizing. I bought Miracle Grow tomato food, a balanced mineral diet, and will try using it after the seedlings are transfered to outdoor pots and are strong enough for fertilizer. Of course, if the spots show up, I'll be back with the Hoffman's.

Rainy days = fungus

Last summer, (2006) came in with wind and rain. That didn't suit our tomato crop at all. A wet late June and July left our plants covered with a white filmy substance that dried out the leaves and turned them brown and brittle.

Again we hit the Internet to find out what was eating our plants. We plugged search terms "tomato diseases" into Google and found several sites with pictures and explanations of every tomato killer imaginable. Our babies had powdery mildew.

To find a solution we went off to hardware/garden outpost Saiffee on Seventh Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan (we've found the store a great, inexpensive place to buy tomato accessories like bamboo tomato stakes.) There we found Copper Soap Fungicide. Well, again we wanted to farm without chemicals, but we didn't want to lose our plants, so we sprayed. The affected areas remained brittle and dry, but new growth came in green and healthy.

The mildew stunted our crop, but the plants still produced enough brandywines, cherokee purples, patio tomatoes and cherries to share with friends. And they still tasted great.

In reading the fungicide label this year, I note that it can be used to prevent mildew by spraying before a period of protracted rain (watch the Weather Channel for predictions.)


Our first tomato growing season (2005) brought dreaded green hornworms that ate leaves and burrowed into our precious tomatoes. They came with the heirloom Cherokee Purple and the patio tomato plants we bought at the Union Square Green Market and quickly moved on to the rest of our crop (even the cherries Mitch raised from seeds.)

Well, we went right to the Web and found out what these critters were. We headed to a plant nursery in Long Island (we were there for the weekend coincidentally) where they suggested we try an organic compound called Safer, that's pretty widely used. We were leary of using any pesticides, but we didn't want to lose the plants so, we mixed and sprayed. The Safer was fairly effective at controlling the tough to snuff critters. We also kept a vigilant eye out for them under the leaves so we could pluck them off and squash them too.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Exploding tomatoes

So, our tomatoes are bursting thanks to all this rain! It's August and you'd expect the sun to be shining and our crop to be ripening on the vine. Deep red beauties of the heirloom variety.
Instead we've hit a bump. July and early August brought forth plenty of fruit, a fab 2007 Tomato tasting festival on our terrace, but then, BAM - no tomatoes this week.
Well, the skies are supposed to clear tomorrow (Friday) and the weather's supposed to warm up, so maybe all those green globes will turn for us.