August and the tomato garden is producing huge quantities of red, ripe tomatoes. I have been lucky to have plenty to eat at lunch and dinner and to share grocery bags full with friends. This is the first year Mom and I have had enough tomatoes for canning too. To date we have canned two cases of stewed tomatoes to use for spaghetti sauce this winter. The vines are loaded with green tomatoes and I hope to have fresh tomatoes for Thanksgiving Dinner.
I cannot take all the credit for such a bountiful crop of tomatoes. Mother Nature has rewarded us with plenty of rain this year. We have experienced drought the past 3 years and this definitely reduced our past harvest. I started my tomato plants this spring and planted them after the ground warmed up and threat of frost was past.
In my region, we are located in zone 7B-8; the last frost date is April 5. However, we always wait until April 15 to put easily frost-damaged vegetation into the ground.
Soil preparation is important. I add large amounts of composted materials to the planting hole along with a handful of lime, Epson salts, and a book of matches with the cover removed. These additions help prevent blossom end rot on tomatoes. Nothing is more discouraging than to discover large tomatoes with the bottoms rotted out.
If you do find tomatoes with blossom end rot, immediately remove them from the vine discard them to the compost pile. Apply Epson salts around the base of the plant and water well to dissolve the salts. Epson salts contain magnesium, which prevents blossom end rot on tomatoes.
Consistent and regular watering is important for developing plants and tomato formation. To prevent the tomatoes from cracking, water on a regular schedule. Keep a watch on the weather and the forecasts for rain and water according to need; too much water is worse than not enough.
Keeping tomatoes off the ground is essential to prevent attacks from both slugs and rabbits. I use staked tomato cages to keep the tomato plants standing tall. Plants loaded with large tomatoes require sturdy stakes; I use old broom handles and old tobacco sticks along with twine to keep the tomatoes upright and away from predators.
In addition to stakes and cages, I am also using a commercial trellis made from nylon netting with good preliminary results. I set up the net and then planted my young tomatoes at the base. I planted most of the plants directly in the ground, but I also have plants in 3-gallon black pots located along the netting where spring bulbs are located in the ground. As the plants grow, I weave the growth through the netting. So far, the netting is holding up well with the weight of the tomatoes.