Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tomatoes 101

 I grew up in the south where my next door neighbor was an elderly lady named Mrs. Ardis.  She could grow just about anything and spent her days in her garden where I was always welcome.  I realize now I learned about sustainable gardening from her although it was not called that back then.

8x6 Oil on Masonite
I painted one of my seedlings a couple of years ago...
I must really like tomatoes!

Mrs. Ardis rooted roses, azaleas, and hydrangeas by the dozens.  She planted her cuttings in old coffee cans.  Each was covered with a bread bag making a mini hot house.  She grew her vegetables using seeds she saved from one year to the next.  Once, she pinned a leaf to her kitchen curtain that sprouted tiny little plants all along the edge.

I was fascinated.

I was remembering her and her Dixie Cups filled with tiny tomato plants yesterday when I was working in my vegetable garden.  I have wonderful memories of my sweet little Mrs. Ardis.


My first round of tomatoes were planted 5 weeks ago when they looked like this...

Now they look like this...

Planting Tomatoes

  • Plant a few hills early in the spring.  If we get a frost,  I just cover them up.  I just planted 3 more hills and will add another 3, a month from now.  I stagger my planting this way so that when one planting begins to play out, another one is just getting started -- I don't get all my tomatoes at once.  
  • I purchase plants (shame on me) from the garden center.  I like Celebrity and Sweet 100's and I look for plants that are not too leggy, stand upright, have no wilted leaves and no blooms.  

  • Grow two plants for each member of the family who will eat lots of tomatoes, as a rule of thumb. If you plan on canning tomatoes or making fresh and canned salsa, use up to four plants per person.

  • Plant in  a sunny spot.  Place tomato plants in a site that gets full sun (7 hours or more daily). Tomatoes need lots of warm sunshine.

  • Prepare the garden bed by adding lots of well rotted compost if you have it. 

  • Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the plant and plant deep in the hole burying 50-75% of the plant.  This is hard for me to do when I buy such a nice, tall plant but it's a must!  It makes for a stronger plant.

  • Give each plant about 1 gallon of warm water within ten minutes of transplanting to avoid transplant shock.

  •  Space tomato plants 18 to 36 inches apart.  Don't forget to leave yourself enough space to get in between the plants to water, weed, and harvest. Those cute, little seedlings may not remain that way for long. 

  • Use a tomato cage or a tall stake to support the tomato vine about 14 days after transplanting

  • Choose whether to use chemical fertilizers. I am lucky to have chickens and all the chicken poo I want.  I use soiled hay from my coop as a mulch for each plant being careful not to let the mulch actually touch the plant.  This is the only fertilizer I use because I have a chicken tractor that's been on all of my planting beds so the chickens have already fertilized each bed.  If you choose chemical fertilizers make sure they are made for vegetables and not grass and follow the manufacturers instructions!

  • Shake your plant poles or cages gently once or twice each week for about 5 seconds once flowering starts to promote pollination of the blossoms (from one flower to another).

  I'll have to post about chicken tractors soon but here is a look at mine in last year's garden...

Click on the picture if you'd like a little backyard tour with some pretty shocking "before" pictures!

Ha! Notice the tomatoes gone wild!


I'll be hooking with these fun ladies...

May 27 - Favorite appetizer recipe
A Little Knick Knack 

Fireflies & Jellybeans
Tales from Bloggeritaville
Brambleberry Cottage
My Repurposed Life
French Cupboard
Beyond the Picket Fence

If you enjoyed this post (and, gosh, I hope you did) please BECOME A FOLLOWER!


  1. Lindy!
    oh my! Your tomatoes look fantastic. We started some tomatoes from seed and they don't look near as good as yours.

    I'm wondering if my dirt is lacking some nutrients. Do you think I may need to add some epsome salts to my dirt for more magnesium or something? Everything else, potatoes and squash are doing pretty well. Just having a time with Tomatoes and Peppers. Very tiny plants...
    I was sure hoping mine would look like yours by now.
    My lettuce bed is going great. But I planted that and beets and broccoli in a horse manure bed. Everything else is getting drenched in manure tea. (icky sounding I know)
    I'm not using any chemicals-- so I'm hoping this garden improves.

    Thanks for showing yours... I'm in zone 8 in Texas... what zone are you in? (if you don't mind the questions) ..Feel free to email me if you like.


  2. What a wonderful gift you bring the blogging scene This is about time for us to start thinking along these same lines. All of this is very timely. Adding a bookmark to this one!
    Thank You!

  3. @Corn in my Coffee-Pot

    Hi Pat, I'm in zone 8 as well -- in Alabama. It's been really warm here so I'm thinking I'm a little ahead of schedule this year. That horse stuff sounds good to me. I've never used epsome salt before -- I have great soil to begin with so I haven't had to put too much work into keeping it that way. Good luck...your menu sounds great!

  4. I am so looking forward to reading about the chicken tractor!!! Your garden, from last year, looks great and I bet it will this year as well! A girlfriend planted the salad garden from Southern Living and her tub is lush and growing yummy basil, tomatoes, and another herb that escapes my brain at the moment :/

  5. What a nice looking garden you have. Love it!

  6. Beautiful plants already Lindy! I can't wait to get planting once the snow finally melts. Gorgeous!

    I had a chicken tractor in Washington. It was so nice having fresh eggs and also not having to clean out a coop. I can't wait for your post on the tractors. Last years' garden was just beautiful!

  7. Oh Darn ! I'm ever so jealous. Your garden is awesome and we're getting snow showers tonight & tomorrow.
    When can I move in with you?
    hugs, Amy

  8. Lindy, I love your tomato seedling painting! You garden looks wonderful!! It really looks so healthy!!

  9. I'm impressed! I still have a few weeks until I can plant. My favorite is the Sweet 100. I usually get a few grape tomatoes, but always love the Sweet 100's the most.

    Thanks for the tip about gently shaking the plants. I've never done that, but will try it this year.

    Thanks for the post!


  10. Your garden is so perfect. Great tomato tips. I new knew about planting so deep. I'll have to do that next time. What's a chicken tractor? You don't want to know what I was visioning. LOL!

  11. Great tips on planting tomatoes...thank you. I haven't planted mine yet, I am a little late this year. The painting is did a super job with the shadows.(-:

  12. The painting is amazing! Love your garden. You've got the "tomato gene" -- my dad had it, too. I tried for six years and finally quit. I always had lots of growth but rarely a tomato. LOL!

  13. Strange as it may sound, I'd really like to learn more about the chickens and the chicken tractor, as well as any uses for the used bedding etc. We are moving to the country next year and I'm gathering ideas on things I should know, especially since we def plan on having chickens!

  14. What lovely memories you have of a obviously very precious and smart lady. I love the painting at the top of the post, it is so sweet.

    Blessings Kelsie

  15. Thank you so much for this post. Last year my attempt at growing tomatoes was less than successful. Just reading this post I know already 2 things I didn't do! I didn't pinch the leaves off and I didn't plant them deep enough. I'm in Ohio and we're probably about 4 weeks out for the ground to be plantable. It's still really cold here. I appreciate the great advice! ~Ann

  16. Your post cracked me up! Tomatoes growing that big already. Heck, being able to plant anything outdoors right now is a shock to me. We just had the last of the snow melt from our back yard last week! but then again, I live in New Brunswick, Canada, snow belt capital of North America, ha! ha!

  17. Thanks so much for the tomato growing tips, I am a beginner, and these will help! Sue

  18. I tell you...Tomatoes are getting more and more expensive to buy it seems....I would love to try my hand at growing my own...thanks for the instructions. By the are an amazing artist :)
    Happy SS!

  19. Love this!

    What is it that you have on the edges of your tomato field? It looks convenient.

    The spring has just arrived here, but sadly, my tomatoes are only some inch high. I might be forced to buy some this year.

  20. I never hear of shaking the plants thanks for the tip.

  21. What gorgeous tomato plants!! I can't even begin to think about planting yet!!! But soon...soon!
    Your garden looks fabulous!

  22. Your garden is beautiful! Thanks for the tomato tips, we're about 3 weeks away from planting here in Philly:@)

  23. Your tomatoes look fantastic! We cannot put out tomatoes here til after May 5th. Your painted seedling is great, what talent to take something so basic and make it art! I am your newest follower.


  24. Oh my goodness..tomatoes already! I'm so jealous!

  25. Those plants look so healthy. Mine are also growing by leaps and bounds and I hope to have tomatoes soon. Good information. Thanks.

  26. Wonderful! A fellow tomato lover!!!

  27. Hey girl...loved this! I lived by a Little Mrs Headley that was just like your sweet neighbor! I love tomatoes and have two husky cherry plants sitting in the garage ready to plant this week..I'll take a fresh tomatoe sandwich anyday over a steak and potatoe Gosh girl I never heard of 'shaking' the plant...I am gonna try that one! Great post...thanks for the tips...Picket

  28. There is nothing better than a freshly grown tomato! Thanks for these great tips!

  29. Beautiful garden! It's been too chilly here in Maryland to get in a planting mood, and here you are with fruit already! Loved this post and I would love to hear more about your chickens!

  30. Lindy,
    Thanks so much for all the great tips:) Mr.CC is having his second garden this year and he can use any advice that he can get...he will for sure try some of these tips.


  31. Wow, Lindy, you already have tomato plants. We are always told to wait till about now to plant. Yours look great. We planted some too late last year when all of a sudden my husband decided to plant a couple of plants just to see how they would do. We had a few small tomatoes. We need to follow your tomatoes 101 directions.

  32. @Kim @ Savvy Southern Style

    Hi Kim,
    I plant mine in mid March every year. They're easy to cover if it gets too cold because you can just throw something over the cage. Even if I lose some (which hasn't happened so far) it's worth the chance! Hope you try again and have better luck! ~ Lindy

  33. Wow. I was impressed with your painting. When I first saw it, I thought it was a picture you took of one of your plants! I love your yard and your chicken coop! I would love to hear/see a post on how you made your chicken tractor and know how often you move it around. :o) I saved your yard pictures/post to my favorites list. I've been wanting to do something with our swing and an old stump we have out in our yard. I have Easter flowers planted around the stump, but I've always wanted to create some kind of flower garden around my swing. I just love how you have yours fixed up around your table and tree. Very pretty. Looks like you and your family put a lot of work and effort into and it has paid off. :o)

  34. what a great tutorial! Thanks so much. I've been wanting to start some tomato plants. LOVE fresh tomatoes!

  35. You have incredible tomato plants. Thanks for the tutorial. I may give them a try this year! ~Susie

  36. there's just nothing like fresh tomatoes right out of the garden, is there? i can't wait. you're way ahead of us here in maryland. great tips. we used to have chicken poop and now have the horse kind. black gold. :)

  37. sorry, i posted before i remembered to add what a wonderful artist you are. beautiful painting!

  38. Wow! Your tomato plants have really grown! We have planted about 50 plants but they don't look like yours. Celebrity plants were among some we planted. Our best tasting and best performing ones last summer were Lemon Boys (yellow tomatoes.) Come visit-we're having a giveaway this week.

  39. I thought it was a photo with textures added to it! Looking forward to learning more about this chicken tractor thing! You guys did an amazing job with that backyard. Love the chicken coop! Hubby has his first little tomato on his Early Girl plant. For some reason he wanted to do it himself this year :)

  40. I did enjoy your post and am a new follower. Wish, I could grow a tomato i'm a terrible gardener.

    Stop by and visit at Living at the Whitehead's Zoo.

  41. your tomatoes are looking good.. i enjoyed reading about your neighbor that you learned to garden from. My grandparents always had the most beautiful gardens. They too always started it with seeds from the previous year. If you dont mind me asking what is a chicken tractor.? Do you actually move it from place to place?

  42. I loved reading this post. I will have chicken fertilizer this year too and can't wait to try it. But I won't plant the tomatoes until May 1st. The deer eat everything around here so most of my garden is on the deck. :) Happy Easter.

  43. What a wonderfully inspiratioal story. It's great to have you be a part of Seasonal Sundays, but kindly suppyl a link back. Thanks.

    - The Tablescaper

  44. Hi Lindy,
    Your tomato plants and garden look awesome...I sure wish my thumb was a bit more green...Hee, hee, hee. Growing some veggies would be so much fun. Thanks for sharing.

    Hugs and Kisses,

  45. Your garden look s amazing!! I am in the process of babying my seedlings - outside in nice weather, back inside for the cold actually snowed yesterday!! This would be perfect for my Foodie Friday linky party - stop by this week and link up!

    If you have a sec, feel free to pop over now to enter my GIVEAWAY! All entries must be in by tonight and winner will be picked tomorrow.

  46. What a great post! Hope to see you at My Dream Canvas! Have a great day.

  47. I'm new to gardening, thanks for posting these great tips! Can't wait to test them out! Here in Utah, we can't plant tomatoes until after Mother's day.
    I'd love for you to link up at DIY Thrifty Thursday @


  48. Hello! I found you through Savvy Southern Style. I love the painting! I'm a wanna-be gardener with a tiny yard and garden, so I appreciate the tips. I'm following you now!


  49. Interesting! I'm your new follower and am beginning my garden. Love gardens!

  50. I MUST start my own garden soon! Thanks for the inspiration!

  51. Such wonderful and useful information! Thank you.

  52. Thanks for the tips. I am going to try growing tomatoes again this year.

  53. Growing tomatoes this year... they are so high in the store and they never taste good that way.

    Can't wait until they are ready!

    Thanks for the post.

    DesignHouse Inc


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