Monday, July 27, 2009

Fall tomatoes

Most people associate fall planting with the cold-hardy vegetables - broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, garlic, and kale. But here in Oklahoma, we can plant fall tomatoes in July and August, because we have a pretty long growing season. Last winter our early planted tomatoes recovered after their mid-summer slump and lasted until about early November, when we harvested all the green ones and wrapped them in newspaper so they could ripen on our counter.

However, this year the tomato plants are looking pretty tired, spidermite infested, and not too many new tomatoes are on the horizon. Except for the cherry tomatoes and Juliets, which are still giving me a relatively good crop. The Tulsa-based Tomato Man's Daughter reports that in the past three years, her fall tomato crop has done better than her spring-planted tomatoes, due in part to the warmer weather during planting and also more consistent weather after planting - no early freezes or torrential rains.

So Sunday morning I planted three supplemental fall tomatoes, all I had room for in my garden. My parents brought them down from Tulsa where the Tomato Man's Daughter (TMD) sells heirloom tomato transplants. I planted a Cherokee Purple, a Sioux, and a Soujourner according to the special instructions in the TMD guide.

I hunted down some spots in the garden that had not had tomatoes in the past two years (this year or last) that were at least three feet from another tomato, and would get a good amount of sun despite the shadows from the pecan tree that creep ever closer to the house as the summer wanes. On these spots, I tossed 1/2 cup bone meal, 1/2 cup greensand, one cup worm castings, and a banana, and dug them into the ground. (Actually TMD recommends good-quality manure, but I didn't feel like going out and buying it, so I just used the alternative I had available.) I placed the tomatoes in the ground so that most of the stem would be buried, and watered and mulched the plants. According to TMD, I should mulch with a foot of straw. Maybe this is my problem - I certainly don't have a foot of mulch covering my garden.

I hope the tomatoes do well in these locations; they are not in ideal spots because I had to work around other plants already in the garden. We're expected to finally (!) have some rain off and on for the next week, so I think these plants will get a good start in life. But if it gets too blazing hot and sunny, which is not unlikely this time of year, I will need to set up some kind of temporary protection, like shade cloth or a little afternoon shade teepee.

Next on my fall planting list: bush beans and zucchini. And in late August / early September, lettuce, spinach, kale, and garlic. I may even get crazy and try some broccoli and brussels sprouts. I just really want to grow those wild looking brussels towers. However, I'm not sure if I can accomplish this feat since I have not started any transplants, and no one really sells fall garden transplants here in OKC. So if I want them, I may have to start them from seed.


MN_homesteader said...

We really need to get some heat here in MN, since our maters, peppers, and other hot weather plants are all green and slow-growing. We are planning out fall crops of radishes, greens, etc.

Chile said...

If our plants make it through the "summer slump", I hope they'll be producing some tomatoes, too! I'm sure my sweetie will be planting new things for fall if we aren't in the middle of moving then.

Good luck with your new tomatoes!