Table of contents:

Growing Early Tomatoes
Growing Early Tomatoes

Read the previous part: Growing early cucumbers

How hardening tomato seedlings helped me get a very early and bountiful harvest

growing early tomatoes
growing early tomatoes

Together with cucumbers, she also tempered tomatoes. I did this because I also tried to plant their seedlings in the greenhouse as early as possible, so that when it was not yet hot in the greenhouse, they grew faster and had time to bloom. After all, the most abundant harvest on tomatoes is formed in the lower part of the plant, so it is necessary that they bloom and pollinate before the heat. If this moment is missed, then there will be a shortage of harvest.

Last season, it became clear to me that the yield of not only cucumbers, but also tomatoes is influenced, first of all, by properly hardened plants. But I tempered them differently than cucumbers. Hardening tomato seedlings for me is slightly different from hardening cucumbers. First of all, the fact that they do not sprout on the balcony in the cold, but in a warm apartment.

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I collect high-quality tomato seeds myself, and buy or save hybrids in the winter (see the article "I grow … perennial tomatoes" - "Flora Price", No. 10 (175) - 2014) Two weeks before sowing, I put the seed bags in the refrigerator door. A week later, I put them on a thick cardboard shoebox lid and put it on the battery. Only after that I sow them. The change of low and high temperatures contributes to the final ripening of the seeds.

I sow tomato seeds early - in mid-February to build a good root system. How I do this, I wrote in detail in the magazine "Flora Price" (see "Experiments with Tomatoes"). At the end of February, I expose the seedlings in pots on the windowsill. From the side of the room near the plants, I attach foil to make them lighter from the reflected light. As soon as the seedlings grow, I remove the lower leaves and transplant the plants into a pot of a larger diameter and deeper, covering the stem with soil to the remaining leaves in order to build up a good root system. I look after ordinary seedlings.

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growing early tomatoes
growing early tomatoes

At the beginning of March, I take out these seedlings on a glazed balcony, as soon as the temperature there is at least + 8 ° C, for hardening. The door to the room is constantly open. When the seedlings are exposed to cold, they grow slowly. The stem is short between the leaves. This is very important when growing seedlings. At this time, there is still a short daylight hours, and in the warmth of this, the seedlings are usually too stretched. There is a rule: the less illuminated the plants, the lower the air temperature should be. Once, in early March, the temperature outside dropped to -10 ° C, and it was necessary to bring the seedlings home, because the balcony is not insulated, and I left for the dacha with an overnight stay.

Coming back, I already thought that my seedlings were frozen, because the temperature on the balcony dropped to + 5 ° C, despite the fact that the door to the room was always open. Many gardening books say that such low temperatures are lethal for tomatoes. But to my surprise, nothing happened to them. Throughout the spring, I then never brought seedlings into the apartment for the night, even if it was very cold and windy outside. I believe that it was precisely this hardening of the seedlings that influenced the almost twofold increase in the yield of my tomatoes in the past unpredictable summer. I think this is due to the fact that, once in the cold, the plants are in extreme conditions. They grow slowly, the stem does not stretch.

From germination to flowering, a certain amount of time passes for each variety. In the cold, growth is inhibited - the plant tries to survive, and, once in the greenhouse, they begin to grow rapidly and strive to quickly fulfill the program laid down in the variety or hybrid - to enter fruiting, because they have already passed a certain time period. In the greenhouse it is warm and light from morning to evening, and on my balcony the sun shines only in the morning hours, and after 12 o'clock it leaves, and it becomes cold again on the balcony. Having passed such hardening by extreme temperatures, the plants give a greater yield - they need to leave as many offspring as possible, and suddenly there will be extremely low temperatures again. And while the temperatures are favorable for them, tomato plants grow faster and begin to bear fruit.

In addition, disease resistance increases in tomatoes. Last season, for the first time, we did not have late blight on tomatoes, despite the fact that one greenhouse door left for planting with potatoes, which were seized by this scourge. By the way, more than once I had to observe the appearance of tomato seedlings in the greenhouse, which emerged from self-seeding. This was due to the fact that some tomatoes overripe and fell to the ground. And so they overwintered there, because the soil was not extracted in the greenhouse that year. For the sake of interest, I left them growing. And I noticed that the tomatoes from the overwintered seeds never got sick, while the rest of the plants had late blight.

growing early tomatoes
growing early tomatoes

Last spring, I planted tomato seedlings in a greenhouse on April 14, all of them had a powerful root system. She removed the lower 3-4 leaves and planted the plants obliquely, covering the bare stem with earth (up to the lower leaves). I applied the same set of fertilizers to the hole as for cucumbers. The remaining stem was tied to sticks so that the plant would not lie on the ground. From above, I covered the landings with dense spunbond. After 10 days, I tied the grown and strengthened stems to a rope, wrapping it around the stem. Spunbond no longer closed.

We ate the first red tomatoes at the beginning of June. These were varieties of indoor low-growing tomatoes, which I plant along the edge of the ridges between tall tomatoes. From three ridges of low-growing tomatoes, I collected at a time a fifteen-liter basket of red fruits, which I had to immediately process, because you couldn't eat so much at once. Tomatoes began to bloom in two greenhouses, despite the different soil in them, at the same time. Large-fruited tomatoes began to ripen after June 13. There were many brushes on the plants, and they hung along the entire stem, up to the ceiling of the greenhouse. The varieties finished bearing fruit in mid-September. All ripened in the bud. On October 15, the last ripe tomatoes were removed from the cocktail hybrids - I did not restrict them in growth, as I do with all the other tomato plants. If it had not been for the severe frosts that had come, they would have grown and bear fruit.

We have pleased with their harvest the old proven varieties that I have been planting for more than twenty years: Pink Giant, Super Marmande and a new variety for me Orange Gigant (Chelyabinsk). Their hands had to be laid on a net and tied up - they grew like on a hammock. That summer (the whole June was cloudy and cold), they were the only tomatoes that were very sweet. And the Orange Giant was the sweetest. Its seeds were brought to me from the Urals, and I planted it for the first time.

The fruits were striking in size - they were like a melon of the Kolkhoznitsa variety. The plant itself was also different from ordinary tomato varieties: the leaves are narrow and very long, curled outward, as if wilted from lack of moisture. There were three very large fruits in the hand, or four, but slightly smaller. The fruits were tied on all hands, up to the ceiling of the greenhouse. The pulp is very juicy, honey-sweet, fleshy and with few seeds. Their only drawback is that they do not lie for a long time. But on the table, they were eaten first.

growing early tomatoes
growing early tomatoes

The French variety Super Marmande, thanks to the effect of the cold on the seedlings, doubled the yield, and for the first time in twenty years the bunches of these tomatoes had to be tied up from overloading the crop. The Pink Giant has also increased yields in terms of both the number of fruits per cluster and their size. The largest fruit weighed 1 kg 400 g.

New hybrid tomatoes were also grown. The harvest was excellent, but we didn't like the taste of them, so I won't write about them.

In order for tomato plants to feed all their numerous offspring, fertile soil is needed. Here I will dispel the myth that tomato plants cannot be planted in very fertile soil. I grew tomatoes in two greenhouses - two rows in each. In one greenhouse, hot beds were made in the fall, and they were very well filled with organic matter. There I planned to plant peppers, cucumbers and watermelons with melons. But in the spring, plans changed, and instead of melons and watermelons, tomatoes had to be planted there.

In the second greenhouse, hot beds for tomatoes were not made, but only a little semi-rotted compost was added to the top layer. In the first greenhouse, on soil that was too fertile for them, the yield was twice as large! So I do not believe this statement now and last autumn I filled the hot beds in greenhouses with a large amount of organic matter (compost and horse manure with sawdust). With this soil, I form plants in three, and sometimes in four stems, and get an excellent harvest, because there is enough nutrition for the tomatoes.

In order for the tomato plants to be thanked with a generous harvest, and not with fat leaves on oily ground, I do the following: I remove unnecessary stepchildren immediately after they appear. As soon as flowers were pollinated on the lower brush (I immediately remove the flowers so that they do not rot), I also remove the leaf under the brush and above it. And I do this with every brush. From this, tomato fruits are well lit by the sun, the air in the greenhouse does not stagnate, and the bushes are ventilated. All leaves on the stem cannot be removed - they are needed for photosynthesis.

My tomato plants were thanked for their care last summer with a very rich harvest, which I even had to distribute to relatives. Therefore, taking into account such a yield of hardened plants, this season I decided to vacate another bed in the greenhouse for two new grape plants.

And now I will tell you how I prepare the base of my harvest of heat-loving crops.

Seedling soil

I make up the soil for seedlings myself, I don't trust the purchased ones. It consists of: greenhouse soil sifted in autumn from under cucumbers, sifted compost, coconut substrate (necessarily washed), vermiculite, crushed to a fine fraction of sphagnum moss and a small amount of AVA fertilizer (powder). In recent years, I realized that in such soil, when it is stored on the balcony, due to the change in temperatures there after the alternation of warming and frost, some microorganisms die outside, and the plants do not feel very comfortable in it. Therefore, in the spring I bring some fresh soil from the greenhouse or compost from the dacha and add it to the pots. I do not add any other fertilizers to the soil, because seedlings and young plants are very sensitive to a high concentration of soil solution. I was convinced of this once in my sad experience,when I introduced very little mineral fertilizer (phosphorus, potash) into the soil for seedlings and thereby ruined the seedlings.

growing early tomatoes
growing early tomatoes

Greenhouse preparation

I have been preparing a greenhouse (made of cellular polycarbonate) for the season since autumn. There are three ridges. I cook each of them in turn like a hot bed. I do it this way: in late October - early November, I dig soil from the ridges with two bayonets of a shovel. I take it out of the greenhouse and place it under apple trees, raspberries and other shrubs and trees. I do this so that the ground does not deplete in the greenhouse and diseases do not accumulate, because polycarbonate is not removed for the winter. By the way, the walls of the greenhouse are thoroughly cleaned from the inside, since various pollution may appear on them during the season, and this will lead to a deterioration in lighting.

I put a good layer of dry sawdust at the bottom of the ridge - in the spring they will serve as insulation from the frozen lower layers of the soil. By the way, sawdust at the bottom of such a ridge does not decompose for several years, because fungi, which need air, are involved in the process of their decomposition, and there is very little of it. Therefore, for several years in a row, when arranging a hot bed in a greenhouse, I do not take out sawdust, leaving them in the same place. When arranging a hot bed in the fall, it is impossible to water sawdust, otherwise they will not perform the function of thermal insulation.

I pour a thick layer of maple leaves on top of the sawdust - this is food for earthworms, which will produce valuable organic fertilizer from them. It is better to collect leaves after rain. In this case, they do not fly apart when I drive them in a wheelbarrow, and they will not need to be watered in the greenhouse. And it is imperative to moisten them so that they are available for food to earthworms, and it is convenient to tamp them with your feet. In this case, they occupy less space in the garden. Wet leaves by next fall, when I open the garden again, will be recycled by 90%, and dry ones - only 50%.

In addition to maple leaves, you can also use birch leaves. In no case should you use oak or alder leaves - tannins are present there, which will negatively affect the plants.

I spread out a lot of wet hay with the next layer and trample it down too.

The next layer will be dried in the winter season in the city of cleaning from vegetables and fruits. Over the four winter months, I have accumulated their two large sugar bags. It is a very valuable organic fertilizer that also serves as food for worms and microorganisms. Alas, this volume is only enough for one six-meter bed and only for cucumbers. This layer is not provided for tomatoes and peppers. When laying in a garden, I also moisten these waste.

I pour the next layer of horse manure (it is with sawdust) - I do not regret it. And I trample this layer. Then I fill in a layer of fresh earth, which I have pretty much filled with compost, horse manure with sawdust, ground eggshell, double superphosphate, potassium magnesium, AVA fertilizer (powder), wood ash.

After all the layers are laid, I water the ridges first with water, and then with a solution of liquid manure, to which, in addition to a mixture of horse manure and chicken manure, sapropel and Extrasol are added.

The garden bed is ready for spring. Superphosphate and potassium magnesium will swell, but will not dissolve further, because the ground in a closed greenhouse will not be wetted by rain and snow. But after planting seedlings there and abundant watering, these fertilizers will immediately begin to gradually exert their effect. The only thing I do in winter is to throw a good layer of snow on the ridges at the end of January, when frosty weather sets in. He will give melt water in the spring, which is very important for the soil.

Olga Rubtsova, gardener,

candidate of geographical sciences

Vsevolozhsky district of the

Leningrad region

Photo by the author