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Keep tomatoes off ground for bigger harvest

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By Cheryl Steenerson

I love this time of year. Though the mornings have been a little chilly, the days and nights have been super.
At the end of the day, I love to watch the sun go down. It’s my “ah” moment of the day. The combination of the beautiful sky colors and the comfortable lawn chair just makes me sigh out loud, happy that the day has come to an end and sleep is not far behind.
With summer only a week away, it is a busy time, especially in the garden. The lack of rain means I have extra watering duties to attend to, along with weeding and, due to critters beyond my control, more tomato planting.
Gardeners grow tomatoes in a variety of ways. Certain varieties need staking and that takes time. Some folks use tomato cages, some rig up their own cages, some use stakes and string. I use a combination of stakes and string. These methods keep the fruit off the ground and up in the air for a more bountiful harvest.
When you have a row, or many rows, a weave is the easiest method to keep the plants up and off the ground, and it’s easy. Just drive tall stakes (wood works, but rebar is stronger and easier to drive) into the ground at the beginning and end of the row, and in the spaces between the plants.
After the plants have reached a foot in height, tie the twine to the first stake and then begin going down the row weaving the twine in and out, from stake to stake.
At the end of the row, wrap the twine around the stake twice and then head back the way you came at a higher level, 6-8 inches higher. Keep tension on the twine until you knot it off at the end. After some growth, start another weave, higher on the stake, and keep that up until your plant is about 4 feet and fully supported by the twine.
This keeps the plants from slumping to the ground and improves air flow, which reduces disease. Remember to water the soil, not the plant. Those of you with fruit or flowers should fertilize. After green fruits appear, add calcium to the soil around the plant stem.
Oyster shells are the easiest and you can get these at a farm store.
The calcium is key to preventing blossom end rot.
As official summer nears, you can keep on planting the garden.
Cucumbers, beans, squash, corn and sweet potatoes can all be planted now. Lettuce can go in too, just be sure you have some shade for it.
If you’re pulling carrots and radish, just drop another seed in the hole for the next one to grow.
Potato plants should have plenty of little new potatoes, hidden just under ground, if you’d like to sneak a few for supper. Cut them up, place them in a plastic sandwich bag with a package of onion soup mix and some oil. Shake them around to coat them, then pour them onto foil, wrap and put them on the grill. There won’t be any leftovers.
Out in the lawn, chrysanthemums should be pinched back three times before the 4th of July. Pinch off one third of the branch length, each time. Prune you spring blooming shrubs now. Leave the iris leaves, unless you need to dig and divide. The leaves gives the roots energy to store over the winter.
Now, get out there and line up the lawn chairs. When sunset rolls around, take a seat and enjoy the show. It’s a great way to end the day. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.