Planning to Grow Tomatoes this Year?

We have dozens of tips and tricks that will help you grow a better garden
Tomato Plant
Photo by Holubenko Nataliia / Getty Images

We are just a few short weeks away from being able to put summer veggies in the ground, and it’s high time to start making preparations for the garden. Now is the perfect time to stop by Esposito and gather the supplies you’ll need to prep your soil, start your seeds, and plant one final round of winter vegetables.

Planning ahead allows you to grow more fruits and veggies while spending less time, effort and money on solving unexpected problems down the road. When you prepare your beds early, highly beneficial microorganisms have more time to transform your soil into a living oasis for thriving plants. Starting from seed a month before the weather warms can save you up to $5 per plant when spring rolls around.

We have dozens more tips and tricks that will help you grow a better garden; Esposito’s is here to eliminate the guesswork.

Soil Lays The Groundwork

The first step to any successful garden is to make sure your soil is in good shape. This is an area that is often overlooked by new gardeners, but it should be the No. 1 consideration if you hope to grow healthy herbs and vegetables. Perhaps the simplest solution is to opt for a raised garden bed. This method does not rely on your native soil and is suitable for any yard or patio. Esposito’s raised garden bed kits are easy to assemble, no tools required. The beauty of a raised bed is that you can fill it with pre-mixed soil which already has the perfect array of nutrients, a balanced pH, and an ideal texture to facilitate root growth. Bagged soils such as FoxFarms Ocean Forest, Esposito’s personal favorite, are light and fluffy, well-drained and perfect for growing both flowers and vegetables. These soil blends are specially designed to promote growth and prevent problems such as root rot or fungal disease, and many contain special additives to strengthen roots and boost the number of flowers or fruit your plants are able to produce.

For those who are up to a little digging, it is absolutely possible for you to transform your own native soil into rich, living soil your plants will love. First you’ll need to prepare the area. Start by removing all of the grass, roots included, weeds and general debris. Next, till the area thoroughly to loosen the compacted earth. You can rent a full-size tiller from Esposito, or purchase a handheld tool — such as the garden weasel — if you’re working with a relatively small space. Now that your bed is defined and tilled, it’s time to start building that soil. Like probiotic yogurt which improves gut health, the best soils are also living. Healthy soils contain all sorts of beneficial organisms, including earthworms to aerate the soil, and beneficial bacteria and fungi that help plants grow larger.

Mycorrhizal fungi attach to roots and trade resources with virtually every type of plant; both organisms stand to benefit from this bartering system. The fungi, working together with beneficial bacteria known as Rhizobium, enhance water and nutrient uptake for the plant by extending the root system and converting gaseous nitrogen into a form that plants can use. In exchange for these highly valuable limited resources, plants provide the fungi and bacteria with sugar it has produced using energy from sunlight. Together, these organisms exist in harmony, helping one another grow and thrive, all within the soil beneath our feet. Many residential soils are lacking when it comes to beneficial microorganisms. This can be remedied by tilling in a healthy helping of Espoma Bio-tone.

Another problem residential soils tend to face is poor drainage due to years of compaction and a lack of organic material. This problem may be remedied by mixing in a combination of Michigan peat, chicken manure and mushroom compost; you can either pick these up at Esposito or have them delivered to your backyard. Together, these inexpensive soil elements help create a rich, well-drained, evenly moist foundation for superior root oxygenation and penetration. With your soil additives spread evenly across the existing soil, you are just one more tilling away from a garden that is ready to grow. If you happen to have a particularly clay-based soil, which tends to be heavy with poor-drainage, you can add Espoma Garden Gypsum and sand to your mix to improve drainage. Soggy soil is the No. 1 killer of plants, so you’ll want to remedy clay-based soils before you start planting if you hope to see great results.

To prevent erosion and weed-growth while you wait to plant your beds, apply a 3-inch layer of mulch. Not only does the mulch act to suppress weeds, but it will also keep your plants roots cooler and prevent your soil from drying out too quickly, reducing the need for frequent irrigation in the heat of summer. It is far easier to apply mulch before planting than afterwards. When it comes time to plant, simply clear a small area where you’d like to add the plant and leave a small ring of bare soil around the plant to promote airflow. As the mulch breaks down, it will provide a source of organic material which will help you build even better soil as time goes on. If you’re working with a large area, Esposito’s has a great selection of bulk materials including compost, topsoil, and mulch.

Something to consider if you’d like to plant tomatoes later in the year, NOW is the time to apply calcium in the form of agricultural limestone. Calcium is typically lacking in native soils due to Florida’s heavy rainfall, but it is absolutely essential for healthy tomato growth. When tomatoes are planted in soils that are low in calcium, they are far more likely to develop a disease known as blossom end rot, which renders the fruit inedible. Don’t wait until spring; it takes a few months for the lime to dissolve into the soil and start working.

As always, if you have further questions or need someone to install your garden bed for you, Esposito is happy to help. Our customer service team is available seven days a week in store and over the phone. We offer curbside pickup and local delivery; call (850) 386-2114 to arrange your purchase.

Ready to take the next step? Read more here.

Esposito Lawn & Garden Center  |  2743 Capital Circle NE, Tallahassee   |  (850) 386-2114  EspositoGardenCenter.com

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