Plant  Talk - The tomatoes were delish -- what now?

by Kim Benton Cherokee AgriLife Horticulture Agent

Most of us have come to the end of our delicious spring and early summer gardens. This was a glorious year for tomatoes, and I have some salsa canned to show for it. But what now? What is your next gardening step?

For our pantry’s sake, it is good that we have a long warm season. It allows us ample time to grow a second warm season crop. Squash, for example, can be planted in April, June, and July for successive harvest. So, when should you plant? Use a planting guide to help you decide what to plant and when to plant it (here is one for Cherokee County that will work for most of East Texas:

Was there an area that gave you problems in the garden? Blossom end rot on your crops? Or poor yield? Now is the best time to take a soil sample to find out exactly where your soil stands regarding nutrient needs and pH values. When you are fertilizing according to the true needs of your soil, there is balance, and the yield increases. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office in your county will have soil test containers for your use and can explain to you the best ways to take your soil sample.

The soil test results will also reveal the state of your macronutrient levels, including calcium which is the primary contributing factor for blossom end rot.

When the fruit is in its earliest developmental stages, lack of calcium causes cell wall deficiencies which show up later in the season as the blossom end rot. Either there was a lack of calcium in the soil, or a lack of water to get the calcium from the soil to the developing fruit. This is why consistent watering is so very important.

For us here in East Texas, the week when we go from getting plenty of rain to needing supplemental water for our crops can hit at exactly the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) time for the tiny developing fruit and they may miss the calcium they need.

Adding lime to your soil is a very efficient way to assure plenty of calcium, but only if you are aware of your pH levels, since adding lime increases pH and once your pH is above 7, yields decrease due to lack of other nutrients.

Another question that comes up is where to plant your next crops. Should you put the late squash where the early squash was? Definitely not! It is very important to rotate your crops seasonally. If you plant the late squash in the same place, the squash bugs and vine borers will be more than ready to devour your crop, so it is important that you move your plantings.

Put fall tomatoes where your spring squash was, and put something from the brassica family like greens, cabbage, or kale where your tomatoes and egg plants were.

For true rotation that will benefit the garden, you should not rotate a plant in from the same family.
The diseases and pests often will prey on members of the same plant families, so making a complete change is the best way to go.
Instead of planting a second season of warm crops, you can also use this window of heat for soil solarization to kill weeds, seeds, and dormant eggs from your garden area.

Two layers of clear plastic held in place by rocks or pegs will keep the garden area weed-free and make easy preparations for your cool season crops.

For best solarization, the plastic should be kept down for six to eight weeks. For more details on soil solarization, download this document:

Now is your problem-solving season. Your planning season. Time for you to be the change you wish to see in your garden.