It's time to start fall tomatoes

July 20, 2010 at 2:20 a.m.
Updated July 21, 2010 at 2:21 a.m.

By Laurie Garretson

It has always seemed a bit odd to me to be starting a fall vegetable crop in the middle of the summer.

But that's just what we gardeners here in our warmer climate have to do to have our fall tomatoes.

We start spring tomatoes in the winter when it's still quite cool and fall tomatoes during the hottest time of the year.

But to reliably have your own homegrown tomatoes before the first possible freeze, you really do need to plant now.

The most common practice for starting fall tomatoes is to first plant the transplants into pots, rather than directly into the ground. As the root systems develop and the plants grow bigger, they are then moved to larger containers. This way you have a more mature plant to then plant in the ground in a month or so.

Some gardeners choose to continue moving their transplants up in pot size until the plant is growing in a container that is big enough for their particular type of tomato plant to stay in.

Starting tomatoes from seed can be done in this same fashion.

While your container plants are still young, they should be kept in a very bright location out of any midday sun.

Some gardeners prefer to plant their tomato transplants directly into their garden. This saves you from having to repot into containers. Because of the high temperatures this time of year, a few precautions should first be considered.

Plant transplants during the cooler evening hours. This gives the little plants several hours of cooler temperatures to become acclimated to their new location.

Tomatoes will also need a lot of sunshine to produce well and, this time of year, your new transplants will be growing in very hot conditions.

Provide some temporary afternoon shade. There are various methods for doing this. Some gardeners provide shade by putting up fabric, or some other form of barrier, on the west-southwest side of the plants.

Keep young plants well watered. Sun and high temperatures dry the soil out quickly.

Also, keep several inches of mulch (3-4 inches) around the transplants. Mulching is the most efficient way to hold moisture in the soil.

Foliar spray plants with liquid seaweed every week or two. Seaweed is a good fertilizer and will repel insects.

Fertilizing trees

July is the time to put out your second application for the year of organic fertilizer on your fruit and nut trees.

Apply 10 pounds of organic fertilizer to every 1,000 square feet of area. Plus, 40-60 pounds of Greensand for the same 1,000 square feet.

Walnut Caterpillars

I have had several reports of walnut caterpillars in pecan trees. This makes the second round of them since May for some unfortunate growers.

Keep a close watch on your pecan trees. These guys can defoliate young trees very quickly.

At the first sign of these guys, spray the entire canopy the best you can with a general purpose natural insecticide or a product specific for worms. BT Worm Killer or Spinosad are both reliable solutions for these pests.

Feeding Roses

Put your roses on a regular feeding schedule if they aren't already. You need to be feeding them now to encourage a lot of beautiful blooms this fall.

Foliar feeding everything with liquid seaweed every week or two will help to keep many types of pests away. Seaweed can be used along with any other natural fertilizer with no fear of burning.

Feeding your lawn now with a natural fertilizer will help it out during the stressful summer conditions.

Until next time, lets try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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