You can never have to much information on how to get great tomatoes.
How do we plant a tomato, you might ask? With a ridiculous amount of stuff in the hole, is the answer. When someone ropes me into telling them and I start the long answer, I eventually see their eyes glaze over. That’s the point where I say, “Then you throw in the kitchen sink and cover it all up.” To date, no one has laughed at that joke. I think they’re just either too overwhelmed by the real stuff we put in there, or they actually believe we’re throwing in a sink.
This is how we plant a tomato. First off, let’s take a look at our sexy specimen here on the left.
We started this beauty in our heated greenhouse in late January. We potted it up to a gallon container about 3 or 4 weeks ago. It will go into one of our freshly prepared beds, shown to the right.
The tomatoes are placed three feet apart. I’ve learned over the years that spacing them closer than that means less fruit. We dig a nice deep hole to accommodate all the additions – the exact depth is dependent upon how tall the seedling is that you start with. We want the plant to be almost completely submerged into the soil, and the fish head and amendments put into the hole need to be covered with a bit of soil, so we plan accordingly for the depth. This particular hole ends up being almost two feet deep, and is ready for our first goody, these impressive fish heads.
We get them from the restaurant we grow for, Manresa. You might be able to get them free from a good butcher or fishmonger. I even know of someone who called a few restaurants in their area and was quickly rewarded with a nice bounty of juicy fish heads. Fish tails, spines, guts, as well as shrimp, crab, or lobster shells are all good as well. Some of you may worry about critters digging these up later. We’ve never had a problem with animals digging up my tomatoes, and we’ve got three dogs, two cats, and what seem like an endless supply of raccoons living on the property. I stress the point that this is the first thing that goes into our very deep planting hole. That may help keep it from getting dug up. You can see the six inch long fish head staring up at us from the bottom of the hole here:
If you’re reticent to put the fish head in the hole, or simply can’t get your mitts on any, we recommend using fish meal as a substitute. Two handfuls is about right. We get ours from Gardner & Bloome.
The next thing that goes into the hole are a couple of aspirin tablets and some crushed chicken egg shells. The aspirin is to help jump start the plant’s immune system. You can read more about that science here. We’ll put three or four crushed egg shells into the hole as well. You can see our three colors of eggs from our fancy chickens – yes, those are green eggs in there. The eggs supply a nice calcium boost, which will help prevent blossom end rot, that nasty brown patch on the bottom of tomatoes that lack calcium (the fish head bones and bone meal also help with that).