Plant Your New-Year Garden with Tomatoes

January 21, 2005

NOW that the dry season isupon us, it’s a great time to plantand harvest those delicious home-gardentomatoes. Hot, dry days areoptimal for growing tomatoes inCosta Rica. That’s because theseplants are very susceptible to leafdiseases in the rainy season. Sincethere’s no rain now, you can planttomatoes and water the soil, ratherthan the plants, to get a bumpercrop of tomatoes.Try to get your tomato seedsplanted now in flats; within amonth or so, they’ll be ready forplanting in the garden or in large containers around thehouse. During the dry season almost any variety of tomatowill do well, but we prefer cherry tomatoes, which arehardy and resistant to bug attacks. These varieties also dowell in large pots, which can be placed on porches andeaves in attractive macramé hangers, to produce a cascadeof ripe, delicious tomatoes at a hand’s reach from thekitchen. “Florida Basket” and “Gardener’s Delight” aretwo excellent varieties. Look for tomato seeds at ElSemillero in downtown San José.IN the garden, plant your tomatoes in garden beds wellfortified with compost or aged manure. A small amount oflimestone, ashes and rock phosphate will also help boostproduction. It’s important to have a trellis or support foryour tomatoes, so the leaves stay dry and clean whenwatering. As already mentioned, it’s best to water the soilaround your tomatoes rather than the leaves. This ensuresyour plants will grow vigorously, without leaf diseases.You can, however, spray your tomatoes with foliar fertilizers.For example, you can use a simple plant-enhancerspray made as follows: Add one cup of sugar to one cup of3% hydrogen peroxide (dilute 10% pharmacy solutionthree times), then mix with three liters of water, stir untildissolved, and apply. Spraying your tomato plants once aweek with this mixture will help them grow better and producebetter tomatoes, and will protect them from disease.Another useful product is seaweed extract, which isnow available in most agricultural supply centers. Theextract provides the plants with trace minerals.DURING the summer, you may have to keep an eyeopen for caterpillars, such as the horned tomato worm.Handpicking is usually the best way to treat this problem,although you can protect the plants with a biological controlknown as Javelin, made from a bacterium harmless tohumans and animals but fatal to most butterfly and mothlarvae.Pruning is another important aspect of growing tomatoes.It’s important to prune the young vegetative shootsthat emerge from the main stem and base of each leaf stem.These are called “suckers” and, as their name implies, theysuck energy from the plant to make more foliage instead oftomatoes. It’s best to pinch them with your fingernailswhen they are less than one inch long.Cherry tomatoes are vining plants and must be tied to atrellis or support for the continuing growth of the plant.Mulching around your tomatoes will help keep their rootsfrom drying out and save on water.With these tips, chances are you’ll have a good crop ofsummer tomatoes for your salads and meals. Until nexttime, happy gardening.Remember, we have books and seeds to share with you.Write us at New Dawn, A.P. 372-8000, San Isidro delGeneral, Costa Rica, find us online at www.thenewdawncenter.org or e-mail thenewdawncenter@yahoo.com.

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