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Master Gardener Sue Morris: Time to get tomatoes in the ground

What do the letters on the tags of tomato plants mean? Planting strawberries in pots

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It is getting to be the time of year to get those tomatoes in the ground. I recently got a call from a resident asking about the initials you see on tomato labels and what to look for so thought it would be good to go over what those initials mean.

The more initials you find on the label, the better luck you will have as this means disease resistance. Example: V (Verticillium wilt); F (Fusarium Wilt); N (Nematodes); T (Tobacco Mosaic virus) EB (early blight) and LB (late blight).

Varieties with lots of initials after their name include: Better Boy, Beefmaster, Early Girl, Buffalosteak, Lemon Boy, Celebrity, Bella Rosa, Bush Early Girl, and the list goes on.

The number of days from “transplanting” (not planting the seeds in the house) vary. Early varieties are 50 to 65 days — Early Girl (58), Whopper (65); mid-season are 66 to 78 days — Beefy Boy (70), Better Bush (68), Dakota Gold (70), Super Fantastic (70), and Celebrity (72); late varieties are 80 to 110 days — Beefsteak and many heirlooms.

When buying tomato plants, choose fresh, dark green plants. Stay away from the leggy ones or ones with yellowed leaves. This indicates the plant is nutrition starved and will take longer to establish and grow. I like to get the short, stocky looking plants.

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Plant tomatoes deep. Bury them right up to the leaves. Roots form along the buried stem. If your tomatoes have gotten leggy because of the late frosts we have been having and that has delayed getting them into the garden, you can lay the stem down horizontally when planting and cover up to the first leaves. That whole buried stem would develop roots.

Don’t plant tomatoes too close together. You want air movement between the plants and it also makes it easier to harvest the tomatoes. It is a good idea to stake your tomatoes and keep them off the ground.

Strawberries

Do you have limited garden space but still love the taste of fresh strawberries, you can plant them in pots, planters and hanging baskets. The plants are compact and berries hang off the edge of the container. There are two types of strawberries: day-neutral and June-bearing. Only day-neutral strawberries are truly well-suited for containers. These are also commonly called “everbearing” strawberries. This type will produce fruit all summer from July through the first frost and are usually grown as annuals.

They are sold as dormant bare-root plants — just a ball of roots connected to a couple of small dormant leaves. Sometimes, you can also find potted plants in garden centers, but these are much more expensive and don’t really have any advantages.

Look for these varieties: Albion, Seascape, Evie-II, Monterey, Portola and San Andreas.

Do not grow June-bearing strawberries in containers unless the containers are very large, like a wood-framed raised bed. They are perennial plants and have to have space to spread and reproduce; otherwise, they will only produce fruit for one season before declining. Also, they do not produce fruit until a year after planting.

The University of Minnesota Yard and Garden website advises to place your containers in full sun and plant in containers with good potting mix meant for containers and mix in a balanced fertilizer before planting. You will need good drainage as well.

Plants should be about 8 inches apart. Each plant will produce about 0.5 to 1 pound when grown this way. If large fruit is what you want, try planting them slightly further apart.

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They will need regular watering to keep producing all season. Water at least twice per week or more when the weather is hot.

Related Topics: HOME AND GARDEN
Donna Middleton started working at the West Central Tribune in 1975 and has been the news assistant since 1992. She compiles the arts, health, farm and community page calendars, as well as rewrites and works on the special sections.
She can be contacted at dmiddleton@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4341.
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