NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

June 12, 2013

Tomato plants need support, fertilizer

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — It turned out to be a relatively nice weekend after all. Once the skies cleared on Saturday, it was nice to be outside the rest of the weekend.

Now that you have your tomato plants in the ground, here are a couple of things that you need to be doing. If you want to get a larger yield, you can place red plastic mulch around the base of the plants. The red plastic reflects light back up onto the plants. This allows the plants to grow faster and ultimately give you a larger yield of tomatoes.

Your tomato plants also need to be supported with either tomato cages or some type of sturdy stake. Once the plants are bearing tomatoes, they tend to get top-heavy, and the plants will fall over if you do not provide adequate support to hold them up. It is far easier to place your cages or stakes over the plants while the plants are small.

Last, but by no means least, you should begin a regular schedule of fertilizing your tomato plants. Plants will grow faster, they will set more tomatoes, the tomatoes will ripen faster and the plants will be able to fight off diseases better if the plants have been fertilized on a regular schedule.

Speaking of fertilizing your tomato plants, the same holds true for all of the plants you have put into the garden. It doesn’t matter if it is vegetable plants or flowers, all plants benefit from a regular application of fertilizer.

Over the years, I have talked to many a gardener who have said that they are not successful at gardening. Their biggest lament is that the plants just don’t seen to thrive. When I ask them how often they fertilize the plants, they usually reply, “I water the plants.”

Remember, plants are a lot like people. Both like to eat! A successful garden is a well-fed garden. Make your first weekend project to fertilize your flower and vegetable plants.

Take a few moments and check the underside of the leaves of your holly plants. Over the weekend, several people brought in leaf samples of holly plants, and the leaves had scale growing on the undersides. This insect can multiply to the point where the holly begins to lose leaves. An application of an insecticide will knock back this pest and allow you to get those holly plants healthy again.

For those of you who have been waiting for their arrival, we got in a shipment of ladybugs and praying mantis egg cases. Ladybugs will eat aphids and other soft body insects that are attacking your plants. The egg cases of the praying mantises are placed in your gardens, and when the cases hatch out, hundreds of baby mantises will begin to eat other insects that can be destroying your gardens. Both of these beneficial insects are only available for a short period of time each spring. If you want to try either of these natural pest control methods, now is the time to get them.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is www.harborgardens.com. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to ndn@newburyportnews.com, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.