Many vegetables they use in this garden can be grown from seed. Lettuce, of course, is easy to grow from seed. Basically any vegetable is easy to grow from seed although Sarah finds with some it is just easier to buy starter plants. Many today buy their tomatoes as young plants. Here they do grow tomatoes from seed. They have a greenhouse, they have heat mats, thus can start them before the last frost, about 8 weeks before the last frost. They plant them in biodegradable cow pots, which Sarah feels are superior to peat pots which often don't break down in the soil as well as the cow pots. They plant the entire pot and about 4 inches of the stem of the tomato in the ground. Sarah digs behind where she wants the plant to go. It doesn't need to be really deep because she 1st takes off the lower leaves. Of course, it's never too early to scout for insects. She notices an aphid and goes ahead and squishes it. She then picks off all the lower leaves and sets the tomato in the ground on its side. This is a technique her mother taught her and she has Georgia's most productive tomato garden. So it works, Sarah is not going to change her planting approach. She sets it in the ground, holds the tip upward, then just backfills the hole. All of their soil they amend with horse manure and compost, so it's very rich. This is important because Tomatoes are heavy feeders. Tamp them down, make sure the soil has contact with the roots and stem. It's very simple, that's all you do. One important thing to remember is which way you put your pot or the root ball if just sliding it out of the pot. Sarah always puts the plant facing forward that way she knows she can put her stake at the back. If you don't remember and plant them in different directions you might end up spearing the root ball. She next uses 8 foot tall stakes, drives them into the ground at least a foot, then grows the tomatoes accordion style. This is an 1800's method of saving space in the garden. Here they only allow 2 main vines of the tomato to grow. Tie it up with cotton strips which is what they would have had available during that era because they didn't have wire cages. This is the method they use here today and Sarah loves it. By following this procedure one will get a lot more tomatoes per square foot. After tying them up she pinches out the extra growth, otherwise you will get a lot of vine production but not as many tomatoes. This is a great space saving way to grow tomatoes and Eric thinks an attractive way to trellis tomatoes. There are certainly other ways to grow tomatoes but this is a good method for a small garden.
By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
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