Midwest Garden Guys

Tomato Tom’s Tips

SCOTT: Mike, you knew a gentleman called Tomato Tom. We’ve talked about him on the podcast before. What was so unique about Tomato Tom’s approach?

MIKE: Tom’s focus was based on the appropriate planting time, tomato variety, health and harvest time. Hybrid tomatoes such as Supersteak, Better Boy and Brandywine were developed as the perfect slicing tomatoes. These tomatoes were bred/developed for size, a lot of meat and little seed. Whereas heirloom tomatoes have a shorter shelf life, are less disease resistant, and have a boatload of seeds.

SCOTT: I think Tom used to laugh to himself, mainly based on how other gardeners worried about the early stages of the season. He would sit back and wait for that second full moon in May, much like he had insider information!

MIKE: Toms’ secret came from growing techniques almost lost to generations born after World War II. Customers came into Black Diamond with their sickly tomatoes and Tom would strut into the store with bushels of SPOTLESS tomatoes that he gave away. Customers always wanted “What he has!”

SCOTT: Planting wise, I’ve learned to wait until the last full moon in May, pinch the bottom set of leaves off, and then plant it deep.

MIKE: Scott HAS been LISTENING! Check your calendar for the LAST full moon in May. Not Mother’s Day, that’s a generalization. The threat of a KILLING FROST is usually over after the second full moon. This year there is only one full moon in May. There is no guarantee there won’t be any frost after May 5, but the threat of a “Killing Frost” is lessened.

SCOTT: Maybe Tomato Tom dumped in egg shells when he planted, but today we have amendments we can add.

MIKE: Bumper Crop contains mycorrhizae and calcium chloride to ensure your plants will maintain a strong root base and not become susceptible to Blossom End Rot. The mycorrhizae consumes nutrients not accessible to the tomato, then forces nutrients into the plants existing root system … thus a larger fruit yield.

SCOTT: Mike, what about companion planting and crop rotation?

MIKE: I’ll be darned, Scott has truly been doing his homework. Companion planting is the planting of certain crops closely to each other. Thus, getting the most out of your plant nutrient uptake, enhanced pest control, attracting beneficial insects, promoting pollination and increasing production. In the growing of tomatoes, culinary herbs such as basil repels insects and thyme makes a natural groundcover. Marigolds and carrots promote and attract beneficial parasitic wasps that kill Tomato Hornworm. 
Crop rotation is a very important practice even in small gardens. Tomatoes take most micronutrients like calcium, boron and magnesium from the soil and it needs to be replenished. Applying calcium or dolomitic lime will assist in reincorporating micronutrients in the old section for next year’s rotation. 

SCOTT: And then pick, slice and enjoy I say. More in depth details in an upcoming podcast episode. Until next time, green thumbs up!

Your Midwest Garden Podcast guys, Mike O’Rourke and Scott Sandstrom, will be sharing gardening advice and information with readers throughout the growing season. O’Rourke, retired from Black Diamond Garden Center and known as the Garden Guy for many years, discusses landscape issues with Sandstrom in a casual conversation designed to educate listeners, and now readers, on a wide variety of topics.

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