My Method for Growing Massive Tomatoes

sliced-red-tomatoOutside Savannah, GA, is where you’ll find my 35 year old vegetable garden. I grow in 22 rows that are about 100 feet long each. The soil pH in my garden varies from 6.5 to 7.5. My wife and I grow a lot of produce – we can some of it and we give lots of it away. We do our biggest planting on Good Friday – that’s when we plant almost everything except for the potatoes. This year I grew a lot of tomato plants, including 60 Better Boys, 30 Early Girls, and 30 Rutgers – they have all done great.

My 60 Better Boys are taking up 2 rows. The rows are about 3 feet wide, with about 3 feet between each row, as always. If you move 3 rows down you will find the row of 30 Early Girls, and move down 3 more rows to find the row of 30 Rutgers.

I prepared the soil with a tractor, making the planting rows about 4 inches high. The allows my drip water hose to water the plants and not the alleys between rows. For the tomatoes I applied 5-10-15 fertilizer at planting time, less than a handful in each hole. I applied about 1 cup of water at planting time for each plant. When the plants were about knee-high I set a 3 legged cage for each one, and scratched in another handful of 5-10-15. We weeded the rows by hand as we went along.

When each plant began to outgrow the 3 legged cage, I applied one of my custom wire cages made from field wire. These are 48 inches high, with a 28 inch diameter. I drive in a T post for each one to guard against the wind blowing the cages over.

I monitor the plants closely to determine when they need water. I dig down in the dirt about 3 inches – if the soil is dry at that depth, I run the drip hose overnight. We don’t water again until the soil is dry again at 3 inches deep.

When we started gardening 35 years ago, blossom end rot was very bad. We have worked to maintain the soil pH between 6.5 and 7.5, and now we very seldom see any blossom end rot. I do start spraying calcium nitrate when I see the first bloom. This year I sprayed 3 times – I just follow the directions on the bag.

I also spray colloidal silver on the plants and ground to control any diseases before they appear on the plants and fruit. I mix 1 pint of colloidal silver 10 ppm to 2.5 gallons of water. Each batch also has 2 teaspoons of a simple, safe soap. I spray this mixture 3 times a week. I spray silver on everything in the garden.

We will have fresh tomatoes for Thanksgiving dinner again this year. If cold temperatures ever come to us before Thanksgiving arrives, I cover some tomato plants with black plastic, making sure that the plastic doesn’t touch the plants. If you let the black plastic touch the plants, you will probably get some damage.

This is the method we use to get tomato slices that completely cover a slice of bread. I hope this information is helpful for others out there who are trying to grow tomatoes in our area.

Thanks to Gerald C. for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest. We have over $1,500 in prizes lined up for the current writing contest, with more to come. Here is a list of the current pot of prizes:

– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $380 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $279 value
– 1 year of free membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $240 value
– A copy of The Summer of Survival Complete Collection from Life Changes Be Ready, a $127 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $60 each
– The complete 2014 Grow Your Own Food Summit interview series, a $47 value
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $42 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $40 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $32 each

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  • CaptTurbo says:

    It is exciting to see you having great success using colloidal silver. I have recently discovered the stuff and have been making my own for medicinal purposes for myself and pets. Will be using it on the garden this season as well.

    1. geraldc says:

      Very good CaptTurbo. My grandma used it on us 4 grand kids, inside and outside bodies way back in the 50s and we are all still here. I still get my teaspoon full each morning of 10 ppm.

      1. CaptTurbo says:

        I think the stuff is magic! I put some in my drinking container that I’m always having to scrub some algae like stuff out of and the colloidal silver just made it all disappear. Good for us but bad for single celled trouble makers!

  • d. henry Lee says:

    I am always trying new methods. A handful of fertilizer in the bottom of the hole seems like a lot but you can’t argue with success. I planted small tomato plants about two weeks ago to have fall tomatoes. I pick them green before the first frost and store them in my basement which is cooler. One year, I was eating tomatoes until almost February. Good article.

  • Dianne says:

    How do you prepare your colloid silver? With that quantity, I assume you make it yourself. Do you use one of the commercial DIY units? I’m looking at getting equipment (not too expensive) to make it at home for our community garden. Thanks, Dianne

  • Richard says:

    5-10-15 fertilizer is not an organic fertilizer, it is a chemical fertilizer.

    1. Michael Ford says:

      Hi Richard – I guess Gerry C., who wrote this article for our writing contest, doesn’t mind using synthetic fertilizers. Check out this reference I found for converting synthetic recommendations to organic fertilizers – http://growyourowngroceries.org/how-to-measure-your-favorite-organic-fertilizers/. There’s everything you need, even instructions to convert a 100 foot row from 5-10-15 to some commonly available organic options.

  • Karen says:

    I can green tomatoes by slicing them rather thickly and layering in sterilized wide-mouth canning jars. I add 1 tsp. salt, then boiling water to the bottom ring. Process 25 minutes in boiling water bath, same as red tomatoes. Come Thanksgiving, carefully pour out water, and roll tomatoes gently in cornmeal w/o salting. Do not rinse. They will be very tender. Fry in hot oil 3-4 minutes on each side until crispy. They won’t make it out of the kitchen…(:

    1. Bonnie says:

      I have never tried canning green tomatoes. I have made green salsa, but that takes a lot of vinegar. I am going to try fermenting green tomatoes for the first time this year. I am 73, and just love it that there are so many things left for me to learn. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Jacob says:

    I’d be a lot more interested and impressed if you were using organic fertilizers. Why anyone wants to eat food grown with chemical fertilizers continually amazes me. Especially those sprayed with chemical insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and suicides.

    1. Rebecca says:

      I too am surprised with this post on this website…

      1. Michael Ford says:

        Hi Rebecca – Our writing contest is open to the public. Anyone who’s trying to grow their own food and medicine is welcome to submit. We try not to exclude people because they do things differently than we might recommend. We think the open dialogue here is a good way for everyone to learn, together.

  • jerry brandt says:

    I use 5 foot welded wire fence with 5 inch square holes. But, I drive in one fence post and tie two cages on opposite sides for two tomato plants. I also build a small dam around the outside of each cage, so that when I water, I fill the depression with 3 to 5 gallons of water and let it drain into the ground once a week at each plant. A cattle farmer hauls me several dump truck loads of cow manure for free which I let compost over winter before I use it. I too raise a lot of tomatoes. Since not any one type is good every year, I plant 4 plants of 14 varieties to ensure I will have a lot of tomatoes of all sizes. We can about 100 – 150 quarts a year. We also donate to the food bank.

  • Martha says:

    This is the second article talking about colloidal silver for plant disease control. It sounds great, but isn’t it terribly expensive to use it so extensively (three times a week).

    1. CaptTurbo says:

      It isn’t expensive at all if you make your own. I use an old 12 volt power supply from a long ago lost or forgotten device. It actually puts out a little over 17 volts which is working well for quart sized batches. For silver I’m using a couple one ounce silver rounds of .999 purity. Silver bars would be better but I don’t have any of those. The rounds work fine. Actually, you only need one piece of silver for the anode and the cathode can be stainless steel.

      1. Gregory Traylor says:

        I’d really like more details on how to do this. Also, how do you know the final concentration (ppm)?

        1. CaptTurbo says:

          Actually, you can’t measure the ppm of colloidal silver but you can measure the ppm of ionic silver and then estimate the amount of colloidal in the batch from that. I use a cheap ppm instrument purchased from an auction site. Generally from the reading I’ve done, a typical batch will be 85% ionic silver and 15% colloidal.

  • Bonnie says:

    Sounds like this man is a farmer to the core. I grow tomato plants, but I use little effort. I start them in the basement 6 weeks before planting using seed I have saved from the year before. My plants are fed trace mineral granules sprinkled over the garden every Friday during the growing season. Occasionally there will be a problem, but not often. Mother nature usually gives me the problems like too much water, too little water. I rarely have any bugs and my plants flourish. Some I trim the leaves back, some I trim the suckers, some I leave alone. Always fun to experiment with things. I have been hearing a lot about colloidal silver lately, but I stick to compost, and grass clippings and soaker hoses and I always have a plentiful supply of tomatoes. I really do love hearing how others grow their crops, it is amazing how many ways there are to grow things and they all seem to work beautifully.

  • BJ Dale says:

    Perfect tomatoes……..
    My mother in law ( who could grow anything) taught me this way to plant tomatoes…. (Back in the 1960’s)
    I have grown some tomatoes that weighed almost 5 pounds…. and was so sweet and good….. I am willing to share and hope someone will try it and give thier feedback……
    Prepare your garden with good soil…….. put equal amounts of Epsom salts and sugar in a container mixing them well…….
    Dig a 3 to 4 inch trench in a line in your bed.Sprinkle the mixture kind of heavy in the trench…..
    Lay the tomatoe plant on its side leaving on the top showing out in the trench….. cover and water as usual….
    Sometimes, as the tomatoe gets about a foot high, I make another ring of the mixture around the plant……
    With good soil and this mixture there is no need for further fertilizers……..oh I plant my tomatoes close together in the garden, they seem to shade each other, you will be surprised at your yield……
    My mother-in-law raised a garden and put up close to 1000 jars of food……. their root celler was their survival…..:)
    I am happy to share this.:)

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