Each year I receive 10 varieties of tomatoes from Kansas State University that our master gardener volunteers grow and keep data. Through this research many characteristics are learned about varieties and potential issues they may have. One of these issues is cracking.
Tomatoes often have problems with cracking caused by pressure inside the fruit that is more than the skin can handle. Cracks are usually on the upper part of the fruit and can be concentric (in concentric circles around the stem) or radial (radiating from the stem). We don’t know everything about cracking but here is what we do know.
Tomatoes have a root system that is very dense and fibrous and is quite efficient in picking up water. Unfortunately, the root system can become unbalanced with the top of the plant. Early in the season it may be small in relation to the top growth resulting in blossom-end rot during hot dry weather. Later it may be so efficient that it provides too much water when we get rain or irrigate heavily after a dry spell. This quick influx of water can cause the tomato fruit to crack. Therefore, even, consistent watering can help with cracking. Mulching will also help because it moderates moisture levels in the soil. However, you can do everything right and still have problems with cracking in some years.
We have evaluated varieties for cracking during our tomato trials at K-State. It takes several years’ worth of data to get a good feel for crack-resistant varieties but we have found some real differences. Some varieties crack under about any condition and others are much more resistant. The difference seems to be pliability of skin rather than thickness — the more pliable the skin the more resistance to cracking.
The old variety Jet Star has been the most crack resistant of any we have tested including the newer types. Unfortunately, Jet Star is an indeterminate variety that puts out rampant growth. Newer varieties with more controlled growth are often more attractive to gardeners. Mountain Spring, Mountain Pride, Mountain Fresh, Floralina and Sun Leaper are smaller-vined types that have shown good resistance to cracking.
There are many benefits to using mulch! Mulching is an important practice that is often overlooked. Mulching can reduce the time spent in cultivating.
A mulch can:
* Conserve soil water.
* Control weed growth.
* Keep soil temperature uniform.
* Reduce frost damage to fruit.
One of the most effective ways of reducing the need to apply water to garden plants and conserve natural rainfall is to use garden mulches. Mulches are most appropriately used on summer crops when periods of water use are greatest. Mulches provide a barrier that helps prevent moisture loss from the soil by evaporation. They also can be useful in maintaining cooler soil temperatures, controlling weeds, reducing soil compaction, and keeping produce cleaner.
Black polyethylene mulch is preferred because clear plastic mulch promotes weed growth underneath it. Plastics usually are available in rolls from 3-4 feet wide. They are placed over the row or bed, the edges covered with soil, and various sized holes cut for the different crops. Black surfaces absorb heat, warming the soil for earlier production. Later, the foliage shades the plastic, reducing the heating of the soil. These mulches work best with warm-season crops such as tomatoes, melons, peppers, and eggplant, which are usually established by transplant. Continue reading “Mulching”
If you were to ask a farmers’ market grower what it takes to have a successful vegetable garden he or she may say it takes a lot of work! A lot of effort goes into producing a successful garden be it for the farmers’ market or in the back yard. There are many things to do between planting time and harvest. Consider each of the following cultural practices. Thinning many small seeded crops need to be thinned. For crops such as beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, and direct-seeded tomatoes or onions, it is necessary to thin some young plants from the thickly seeded row. An advantage of this process is that you can select the best of several plants and remove the poorer ones. This should be done 1-2 weeks after emergence of the seedlings. Weeding and cultivating Weeds are a natural garden competitor. They compete with vegetable plants for water, nutrients, and space. The use of mulches and cultivation will help control weeds. Don’t allow weeds to get a start. Control them when they are small. Mulching can reduce the time spent in cultivating.
Loosening the soil with a tiller or hoe accomplishes several things: Continue reading “Successful Vegetable Garden”
Beets, beets, beets! We ate lots of beets growing up because dad grew them and mom canned them! I still do like them and grow them each year mainly to eat in salads. Beets are a popular vegetable and can be grown as a spring or fall crop in Kansas.
Tops can be used as a cooked green rich in vitamin A, and roots are a good source of vitamin C. Roots may be canned or pickled and are served diced, sliced, whole, and in strips. Beet juice is the basic ingredient of borscht. Swiss chard is a close relative of the beet and produces foliage rather than an enlarged root. Nutritional value and uses are similar to those for beets. Continue reading “Beet/Swiss Chard”
Have you ever thought about a new way to raise vegetables? On March 29 at10:00 AM you can learn how to grow in the program “Straw Bale Gardening”! Please RSVP by calling our office at (316) 284-6930.
Gardening inside in the winter! Yes, there are ways to garden inside in the cold winter months in Kansas. This idea is not so far-fetched if you consider growing selected citrus plants indoors. Most varieties of oranges and other citrus grown commercially in warm climates are too large to be grown indoors. There are several species that make good houseplants when cared for properly, however.
Lemon and lime are probably the best citrus to use for starting plants. Obviously, you will need fruit with seeds you can harvest from them. There are many varieties that are seedless so it may be an experiment for you to find seeds. You can try to experiment with tangerine. I have had some luck with grapefruit as well. The culture of citrus plants is not particularly difficult if the following requirements can be met.
Use a fertilizer formulated specially for acid-loving plants, mixed so it’s half the recommended strength. Fertilize the plant only when it is actively growing, usually April through August or September. Continue reading “Winter Gardening?”
Well the leaves are starting to fall and what a site it is! As is every year there is the question of what to do with the leaves after falling. Hopefully you have plans such as adding them to you compost pile or mowing them into your lawn. However, there is another use for leaves! Autumn is an excellent time to add organic materials and till garden soils.
Winter can still be a good time to take care of this chore as long as the soil isn’t frozen. It is far wiser to till now than to wait until spring when cold, wet conditions can limit your ability to work soils easily. Working soil when it is wet destroys soil structure and results in hard clods that are very slow to break down. On the other hand, dry soil may need to be watered so it can be more easily tilled. Be sure to wait several days after watering to let soil moisture levels moderate. You want the soil moist, not wet or dry, when tilling. There is a limit to how much organic material such as leaves can be added in one application. Normally, a layer 2 inches deep is adequate with 5 to 6 inches being the maximum that can be added at one time. Shredding the material before application encourages faster and more complete decomposition due to increased surface area. Remember, soil preparation is an important key to a successful garden.