Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Go Sideways For Tomatoes

A tomato plant rooting in water.

The kids and I spent the past two days working in the yard and garden, which is appropriate since it's Earth Day. The crazy weather seems to have passed now. At least, we are past the average last frost date for our zone, April 15th, so we hope everything is now safe from freezing. Our winter garden might have appeared to be mostly sleeping, but the warm weather awakened the plants and it's clear they were gathering energy under the soil. Our rhubarb, potatoes, garlic, and onions burst out. The rhubarb is already a foot tall and the potatoes are nearly there. The cabbages and cauliflower surged back after appearing to die in the snow and are nice little seedlings. The blueberry bushes are blossoming. We planted 24 more strawberry plants yesterday, so about a third of the backyard lawn is now edged with berries and edged with a flag stone border. We've harvested a couple berries, but nothing like our old house yet, when we could pick at least two quarts of berries every other day. We filled the herb tower yesterday and today we planted tomatoes and peppers.

We had a sunroom in our old house where I always started our vegetables from seed. There isn't anywhere in the new house to set out flats of seeds, so I've been having to buy plant starts. It's a much more costly venture. I have several old windows from my grandfather's barn, which I've begged to have made into some cold frames if not a greenhouse, but so far the men with their woodworking skills are ignoring me. I do have a few tricks up my sleeve despite them, and want to show you a simple way to get free plants and increase your tomato yields.

Tomatoes grow roots along their stems.

Tomatoes grow roots all along their stems. If you study a tomato plant you will see little knobby bumps along the stem and those are root nodules. If you were to put the tomato in water or soil roots would sprout from those spot. That's why they are so easy to root from cuttings. You can really help your tomato plant flourish by allowing it to set as many roots as it can. To do this, plant the tomato sideways.

Remove all but the top leaves from the seedling.

Take your tomato start and remove any leaves below the top cluster of leaves. Place the leaves in water. You can root new (free!) tomato plants from these leaves as I show you in my A Sucker Born Every Minute post: http://mandalineartfulliving.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-sucker-born-every-minute.html. Just put each leaf in a glass or jar of water.

Place the leaves in water to root into new plants.

Dig a wide, shallow hole for your plant. Lay the plant on its side in the hole so that the entire stem is in the hole.

Plant the tomato on its side.

Cover your tomato plant completely, leaving only the top cluster of leaves above the ground. I like to cover mine with the top of the peat planting pot to mulch them.

Leave only the top cluster of leaves above the ground.

Now your tomato plant will set copious roots all along its stem, filling the wide planting hole. The tomato will grow a new stem above the ground and will be a much healthier plant for its greater root system. When the new stem grows up you can remove the leaves touching the ground to prevent disease and then you can root those leaves into even more plants! You will get tons of healthy plants and a great yield of fruit with this method, all for much less money than you'd think!

Besides the herbs and vegetables, I planted azaleas, gardenias, and roses. We had a nice screen of mature shrubs when we moved in, but my husband didn't like where they were placed and tried to move them. Unfortunately, he waited until April when it's too hot to move big plants and killed them all, so I'm trying to grow a new screen farther back where he wants it.

I did really well during eBay's Retro Event. Thank you, everyone who shopped the event! Unfortunately, I've hardly sold a thing since it ended. I can really see how much it helped to have eBay highlighting my stuff! I'm stocking Mother's Day gifts, like makeup, and of course, all Mom's childhood doll friends, so please check the store for your mother's gift: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.

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