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Plant now for September tomatoes

As we harvest first crop tomatoes, we need to think about the fall. Although we may have fresh tomatoes now, later in the season we will long for another fresh tomato. A planting of tomatoes now will yield late September fruit, but where can we get plants?

Rooting the suckers from existing plants is an easy way to get new plants from old. Pick suckers four to six inches long, strip the leaves from the base, and stick into moist sand in a shady place. Keep them moist but not too wet. New roots will form in about two to three weeks. Then, just move them, and begin anew.

Is blossom-end rot a problem? This is when your tomatoes have dry, leathery lesions at the blossom end. It is caused by a deficiency of calcium. Pick off affected fruit, mulch around the plants, water more regularly, and use a foliar applied spray of four to five tablespoons per gallon of calcium chloride. Gypsum can also be applied to meet calcium needs. Make sure soil pH and calcium levels are adequate before planting future crops. Take a soil test if you have not done so recently.

Do you want larger tomatoes? Thin fruit to just two to three per cluster. This works best when done early.

For juicer, more flavorful tomatoes, be sure to give proper fertility. Too high nitrogen rates lower quality, while higher potassium rates benefit the production and transport of sugars and acids, important for fruit flavor. Also, don't forget phosphorus. A regular supply of water is also important, but don't overdo. From 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week is sufficient. Juicier tomatoes are also a product of the variety planted. Large beefsteak types usually have the most "gel." Experience is the best rule of thumb here.

Web posted on Thursday, June 28, 2007

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