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Setting Out Tomatoes Early

Gardeners often try to get a jump on the season by planting tomatoes as early as possible. Though this can be successful, there are certain precautions that should be observed, especially this year with the abnormally cool spring.


Adequate soil temperature

Tomato roots do not do well until soil temperatures reach a fairly consistent 55 degrees F. Use a soil thermometer to check the temperature at 2 inches deep during the late morning to get a good average temperature for the day. Most soil temperatures in Kansas now are in the 40's. Plastic mulch can be used to warm soil more quickly than bare ground. Purple leaves are a sign of phosphorus deficiency due to cool soils.


Harden off plants: 

Plants moved directly from a warm, moist greenhouse to the more exposed and cooler conditions outside may undergo transplant shock. Transplant shock causes plants to stop growing for a time. Plants can be acclimated to outside conditions by placing them outdoors in a location protected from wind and full sunlight for a few days before transplanting.
Another way to harden off plants is to transplant them and place a cardboard tent or wooden shingle to protect them from wind and sun for 2 to 3 days. The best conditions for transplanting is an overcast, still day.

Protection from frost: 

Tomatoes cannot tolerate frost. Though we are past the average date of the last frost in most of Kansas, watch the weather and cover the plants if frost threatens. A floating row cover or light sheets can be used for protection. Actually a floating row cover can be left on the plants for two to three weeks to increase the rate of growth and establishment.

Other tips for getting tomato plants off to a fast start include:

1. Use small, stocky, dark green plants rather than tall, spindly ones. Smaller plants form roots rapidly and become established more quickly than those that are overgrown.

2. Though tomatoes can be planted slightly deeper than the cell-pack, do not bury the plant deeply or lay the stem sideways unless the plant is very leggy. Though roots will form on the stems of tomatoes, this requires energy that would be better used for establishment and growth.

3. Use a transplant solution (starter solution) when transplanting to make sure roots are moist and nutrients are readily available.

4. Do not mulch until the plant is growing well. Mulching too early prevents soil from warming up. 

(Thanks to Ward Upham)

 


News

Summer Food in Wintry February

 

16 Popular Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze

1. Garlic – You can freeze whole garlic, garlic cloves or chopped fresh garlic. Frozen garlic does lose some of its texture, but the flavor remains intact.

2. Corn – You can freeze fresh-picked corn on the cob for up to one year. Pack it in freezer bags — husk and silk and all. For store-bought corn, husk and blanch it before freezing.

3. Avocados – The bad news is that frozen avocados lose their consistency. The good news is that they do not lose their taste, so you can use them for guacamole or dressing. Wash and halve them before peeling. Freeze as halves, or puree them with lime or lemon juice and then store for up to eight months.

4. Mushrooms — You can freeze raw button, creminis and portabellas mushrooms for later use. Chop and slice mushrooms and then spread them on a cookie sheet. Freeze. Then transfer the pieces to bags or containers.

5. Onion – You can save chopping time – and tears – by freezing onion for cooking later. Store peeled, chopped onion in plastic freezer bags. The best part is you can just toss them into your recipes without thawing them first.

6. Hummus – Scoop your fresh hummus into plastic containers. Then drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on the top to keep it from drying out. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before mixing and serving.


more such winter gardening from Off the Grid News