Planting Tomatoes in the Midwest
Planting for all Weather, Organically
I have been an avid gardener, 99% organic, here in Illinois since I was a kid. My parents always had a big garden and there is no taste that compares with your own naturally grown vegetables! Since this is one of the things that I love most, both raising and eating (but not weeding for some reason) fresh veggies, I felt the need to share one of the ways in which I have found success, growing tomatoes.
I prefer to grow my garden without plant drugs like miracle gro and other chemical fertilizers, I feel you get a much better flavor that way, and more vitamins, too! There are as many ways to plant tomatoes as there are languages and I want to show you my variation of what I once read in an organic gardening book. One thing that was most important to me about the process is that tomatoes like hard packed earth more than deeply fluffed up soil. Pick up your shovels and let's go!
Preparing and Planting
Anybody can grow good tomatoes as they are pretty simple and straightforward to grow, but growing good tomatoes doesn't cut it for me, I want amazing tomatoes! I usually have my tomato plants grow 5 feet tall and then hang back down to the ground and trail another 4-5 feet on the ground, loaded with big, juicy tomatoes! (that would be 15 feet tall if staked all the way up!) I make gallons of homade spaghetti sauce, and pack it in the freezer for a wonderful winter treat, so I need a lot of tomatoes! Pay attention, now as here comes the secrets to tomatoes like this!
First, the best place to begin is somewhere in your yard, unless you already have a garden spot. Use a post hole digger if you have access to one, or a spade, and dig down about 18-24 inches. Buy plants that are leggy, that is, have long stems and a few leaves on top, as we want to plant them deep. If you can only find short ones, there is a way to do that as well. After you have the hole, fill it with your homade compost to where the top of the plant is level with the ground when you put it in. Now fill in around it with a mix of compost and dirt up to the top, leaving a saucer shape sloping toward the plant around it, to collect water during dry seasons. You may want to top dress with more compost about the time tomatoes begin to ripen in mid summer to keep them coming strong. If you have short plants, plant your plants about a foot deep, and fill around them as they grow, they will grow roots out of the stem all the way up as well as keeping those deep roots that sustain them in the dry summer months.
One trick I didn't point out was that if you do this in your yard, you can simply mow around it, and after a good rain, you can check your plants without all that mud. Like I said in the beginning, tomatoes like that hard packed dirt. Be sure to stake these well, as they will be heavy, and a good wind will blow them over. I prefer to drive a wooden stake in the ground to hold up a wire basket, but there are many ways to do this. I may in the future write more about other vegetables, as well as my spaghetti sauce, so be on the lookout for those, and until then, happy gardening!