Mindy McIntosh-Shetter AKA Mindar the gardening gnome and guest blogger tells us the secret to delicious tomatoes from our own garden. Mindy has a graduate degree in Agriculture Education from Purdue University and is presently finishing her Masters from the University of Louisville in Environmental Education and Urban Planning.Check out her website mindarthegardeninggnome.com and YouTube channel HomeGrownVideos1.
by Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
While growing tomatoes can be an easy task, making them taste good is another matter. The secret to growing great tasting tomatoes consists of two parts and when you find out what these are you will be very surprised.
The first secret to growing great tasting tomatoes is growing them with good neighbors. This technique is referred to as companion planting and entails planting plants side by side that get along. Getting along can mean several things and includes protection along with improving quality. This is where tomatoes come into play. While there are several plants that are companions to tomatoes, only one improves flavor and that plant is basil.
How basil improves flavor is somewhat a mystery but it really boils down to something simple and that is basil helps keep the tomato plant healthy. A plant that is not under stress produces better fruit. The aroma of basil deters many tomato pests so that the plant can concentrate on flowering and fruit production.
The second secret is to growing great tasting tomatoes is a substance that can be found in any drugstore, superstore and even in a grocery store. This substance is Epson salt. Yes, I said Epson salt, that great substance that you put in your bath when you are stressed or need to detoxify. It is also used as a first aid treatment for sprains but you may be surprised that it also works wonders in the garden.
Epson salt is actual magnesium sulfate, which is very important to bloom production and when we talk about tomatoes this is what we want. Increasing tomato blooms means more fruit but how do you use this miracle found at the drugstore?
Epson salt needs to be used throughout the garden season until a killing frost. To start this process one must broadcast it over the garden area. There is no need to till it in since it is so water-soluble but you can mix it in with a rake or wait until you water. The process of watering will be enough to carry the Epson salt down through the soil.
Once this is done, the next step is to dig the hole or trench for your tomato plant. Before you place the plant in the hole, add one cup of Epson salt and then plant the tomato plant. After the plant has been planted, add a topdressing of Epson salt around each plant and water in. Then once a week, add additional Epson salt to the garden space and water in.
Do not be afraid of any buildup or affecting other plants. Magnesium sulfate is water-soluble and what is not used percolates down through the soil without harm. On the other hand, the only plant that does not benefit from Epson salt is sage. When it comes to this plant, the application does not hurt or help the plant.
So this year, give these two techniques a try and let me know how it works out.