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How to Grow Big Tomatoes

It’s not big plants you’re after

Last fall I met a Bay Weekly reader who had perfected the art of growing big tomato plants. Without testing the soil in his 1,500-square-foot garden, he spread half of a bag of 10-10-10, about 20 pounds. While planting his tomatoes, he added a handful of urea fertilizer, which contains 46 percent nitrogen. He used the same planting method for peppers.
    His tomato plants grew to five or six feet tall, but they produced only a few small tomatoes late in the summer.
    No wonder, I told him.
    Over-fertilizing his garden with nitrogen kept the tomato and pepper plants in a vegetative state of growth, adding green but not fruit.
    I prefer growing big tomatoes and plenty of them.
    My soil test results this year indicate that I do not need to lime my soil, nor do I have to apply any phosphorus or potassium. The boron, iron, manganese and zinc levels are all in the medium to optimum range. Since my soil contains almost six percent organic matter, there will be sufficient nitrogen to promote early establishment of plants.
    As soon as my tomato and pepper plants establish their first cluster of fruit, I will apply a side dressing of calcium nitrate. I side dress by placing a one-inch-wide band on one side of the plants three or four inches away from the stem. Then I cultivate the soil to incorporate the fertilizer.

Native Sycamores in ­Trouble, Again

    If you want a sycamore, the import is the ­better choice.
    Have you noticed how the native sycamores are looking ragged this year? Many have lost their new leaves and are now attempting to grow a new crop of leaves near the ends of the branches. This is why you see tufts of leaves scattered along the stems of the branches.
    The spring’s muggy wet weather has been favorable for the spread of the disease Sycamore anthracnose, which attacks newly developing leaves. New growth dies back and stimulates vegetative buds farther down the stem into growth.
    If weather continues the same, it is likely that the native sycamores will not resume normal growth until the weather stays warm for an extended period of time. This problem occurs every few years; many blame it on air pollution.
    Sycamore anthracnose weakens plants, but the hardy ones survive while the weaker plants decline. Because of this disease, I do not recommend planting the native sycamore as a shade tree. The disease can be controlled by spraying with a fungicide, but timing and the cost make it prohibitive.
    The sycamore used in landscape is a different species, the maple-leaf sycamore. In bark and growth, these European imports are similar to the native sycamore. But its leaves are similar to a maple’s. Thus the name Platanus acerifolium, meaning that its leaf shape is similar to that of the sugar maple. The European sycamore is also tolerant of air pollution.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.