March 28, 2016

Tomato Plants!


The official switch from winter to spring is defined on our farm by the first tomato planting. Tomato plants cannot handle freezing temperatures; even a light frost will cause a young tomato plant to turn brown and die. Our little tomato plants find cover in the greenhouse from the winter weather outside while they grow from seeds to young plants in preparation for their plant date into an open field.

In years past, one image imprinted on my mind was the hills lush with tall, green grass for the first tomato planting. This has not been true for some years, almost enough to replace this memory correlation for me, but for the first time in a number of years, we have green hills again!

The tomato beds have been carefully prepared. Last fall, a tractor disked and ripped the ground 18 inches deep to ensure the roots can establish themselves as deep as possible. After the disking, a land plane leveled the field before a tractor drove through making beds that are 60 inches wide. A month ago, an application of organic, pre-plant fertilizer was applied and mulched into the ground. Last week, we injected a single line of drip tape, six inches below the surface of the soil, down each bed. The beds were then covered in a black, plastic mulch to prevent weeds from germinating and warm the cool soil.

The drip irrigation system was turned on a few days ago to wet the soil in preparation for the plants. This morning, a field worker carefully made holes in the black, plastic mulch, every 16 inches, exposing a three-inch hole of the moist soil in the middle of the bed. The plants arrived at 8:00 a.m., and a crew of people started carefully pulling the plants from their tray and tucking them into the soil.
The days of frost are behind us. Spring is here, and hopefully, the spring weather will let the tomatoes thrive until their fruits are ready to be harvested – marking the beginning of summer.