Planting Tomatoes in Wisconsin
Preparing your soil is the most important tip in planting tomatoes in Wisconsin and needs to be prepared, every year, before your plant anything!
When To Plant Planting tomatoes in Wisconsin can be a tricky timing puzzle. In the olden days before global warming, you didn’t dare plant your tomatoes before Memorial Day for fear of frost killing them. In the last five years or so, I have planted them safely in the middle of May. If you just can’t wait to get your fingers in the dirt after our long winter, go ahead and plant them, just have milk jugs or pots ready to cover them if the warning goes out.
Where To Get Plants Some gardeners just love to get started with their gardens when the snow is still on the ground. They set up little greenhouses on their dining room table or window sill and get their grow-lights, growing trays, and seeds out and get started.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a joy to see them come up and grow bigger by the day. Many people don’t have the time, space, or patience it takes to grow their own so they buy their plants at local stores.
Without naming names, I have tried several big box store tomatoes, and have always gone back to my garden center or green market when I want really healthy and heavy producing plants. You may pay a few cents more, but the outcome in tomato quality pays off.
“A Gardener’s Main Focus – Establishing Great Soil”
How To Prepare Your Soil. Compost, compost, and more compost!
Your soil is one of the most important aspects of growing delicious healthy tomatoes; it needs to be prepared – every year – before your plant anything! Tomatoes take a lot of nutrients out of the soil, so each year you need to rotate what you plant where. My best advice is adding compost, compost and more compost. Whether aged cow manure, leaf mulch, coffee grounds, or composted kitchen scraps, adding compost to one’s garden adds a nutrient rich quality to any garden soil.
If you planted tomatoes in one area last year, plant beans or peppers there this year. It will give your soil a chance to rest and also keeps the bugs guessing where your tomatoes went. In the Fall it is very beneficial to put chopped leaves on your growing area. We often ask our neighbors for theirs so we are sure to have enough. In return, they get free produce in season.
When Spring arrives you want to add more nutrients in the form of composted manure and peat moss which is available at any store that carries gardening supplies. Be as generous as your budget allows because this it the key to good soil and more tomatoes!
If you have a rototiller to mix it all up, that’s wonderful, if not, a shovel or pitchfork works just fine and you won’t have to exercise for that day. If your soil is too hard you may want to add some course sand to help loosen it up and make it easier for the plants to grow.
How To Plant I am a big fan of Jerry Baker; he has written many books on gardening using common sense and household products to handle many gardening problems you may have. He has tonics and sprays for everything!
You’ll feel like a chemist mixing Epson salts and dish soap with ammonia and tobacco juice, but you may also be amazed at the results you get. You can go online and find many helpful hints from Jerry. This year I am using Jerry Baker’s tomato planting mix to see how well it works in my garden. I have used some of his ingredients before, but not all. I’m always experimenting to see what works.
Dig your hole in the dirt about twice the size of the pot the tomato is in, so you can fill it with newly loosened soil making it easy for the roots to take hold. If you’re using a fertilizer or Jerry’s mix, put it in the bottom of the hole, along with a teaspoon of sugar before you add the plant. Yes, it does seem to make them sweeter.
Hold the pot sideways and knock it gently but hard enough to squeeze the plastic pot to make the plant slide out easier.
With one hand over the opening supporting your plant, tip the pot upside down and jiggle it out. Carefully place the plant into the hole.
NOTE: Tomatoes like to be buried deeply as they will sprout new roots long their stems where soil comes into contact. This makes your plant stronger and less likely to be blown over in the wind.
Gently pat around your plant and create a crater of soil around the plant to form a catch basin for water when it rains or you sprinkle it. You don’t want to pile the soil around your plant so it looks like a lone tree on top of a hill; all the water will run off and leave before it can soak into the soil.
Give your tomato a drink right away to settle the soil around the roots, then water it daily for a week or so depending on your weather and location. If it starts looking wilty and thirsty, give it a drink; you want juicy tomatoes, right?
HERE’S THE REAL SECRET TO A PROLIFIC HEALTHY GARDEN
Care Of Your Plants Water your babies regularly and watch for insects that seem to be bothering them. If you have problems with bugs, check out Jerry Baker again or ask your garden center what they recommend.
Tomato plants like to grow new stems right above each leaf. Some people choose to nip those new branches out and let only the main stems grow and produce. It’s a personal choice. Try it on a few and see if you notice a difference in tomato size and production.
I like to cut off some of the huge leaves that grow into each other so that more air can pass through the plant, and make it less likely that pests will want to stop by and live there, and mildew doesn’t get started in the shady areas. Again, try it and see if it works for your garden.
Pick up whatever you chop off, and throw it away or put it in a compost pile, don’t just leave them on the ground. That would be an open invitation for disease and bugs to come and stay. I also like to cage my plants to keep them off the ground. This makes a cleaner area around each plant, and it is also easier to see and pick your fruit before it gets too ripe.
I use the sturdy metal cages and tie the branches up with natural twine. The twine does not get hot and burn your plants like twisty ties can, and it also decomposes by itself.
End of Season Clean Up When the season is over, clean up is essential! You want to pull out and dispose of or compost the plants and any tomatoes that have fallen on the ground.
New plants will pop up next summer from the seeds on the ground. Those plants may look healthy, but usually they are faulty hybrids that will not produce the lovely fruit from the year before.
Your whole purpose for cleaning up is to create next year’s bed that will be free of pests, weeds, and disease. When you have finished cleaning you should see a bed that is ready to grow next spring with no hint of what grew there last summer.
It will make you eager to get started next spring because there will be no mess to clean up before you can have the fun of planting again. Gardening should be fun. It’s good to be outdoors; it’s calming, it’s rewarding, and it’s financially worth the wholesome produce you grow.
You will know exactly what you put into the soil and not have to worry about the poisonous additives you often get from store bought food. You will know that the food you pick is as fresh as it can possible be because you picked it the minute before you ate it and thus got ALL the nutrients immediately.
Gardening is a great family activity that will be remembered by everyone and perhaps passed down from generation to generation. That’s what happened in our family. Our children and our nieces and nephews all find joy in gardening, and that is because their grandpa was a proud gardener who showed off his garden whenever someone came to visit. Have fun – start a garden!
Credit: Planting Tomatoes in Wisconsin by Lynn Susan Voigt
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