Tomatoes are ripening all over Winona County. If you want to improve your crop and fruit, there are a number of things you can be doing right now.
Water tomatoes deeply, at the base of the plant. A trickle of water is best. One low-tech way is to drill a few small holes in the bottom of a plastic 5-gallon bucket, set the bucket next to the tomato plant and fill it with water. Let it drain around the plant.
Tomatoes that get brown on the bottom likely have blossom-end rot, which comes from uneven watering. Water your plants regularly and future tomatoes should look much better.
If you grow tall, “indeterminate” tomatoes in a cage, take a clean, sharp knife and prune off any leaves at the bottom of the plant, especially if those leaves are showing off little yellow spots, a sign of early blight.
If you see such leaves, wash the knife thoroughly before you move on, you don’t want to infect a healthy plant. You can also support floppy branches by tying them to your cage loosely with old-fashioned twine. You can prune out some of the branches from the middle of the plant, also, to improve air circulation. It will also help you find those tomatoes hiding in the middle!
If you grow shorter, “determinate” style tomatoes, you can also safely prune and remove infected leaves.
When it comes to preserving tomatoes, you can freeze or can. We have a number of good, reliable companies producing canning products in our region. National Presto Industries, 3925 North Hastings Way, Eau Claire, Wi, 54703, 1-800-877-0441, www.gopresto.com, makes canning equipment, as does the Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry, PO Box 246, Manitowoc, WI 54221, 1-920-682-8286, www.wafco.com makes pressure canners and parts, too. Get details on how to preserve foods safely on the U of M Extension web site at www.extension.umn.edu/foodsafety/components/foodpreservation.htm.
For those of you on small farms who are thinking of producing food for sale, the Kerr Center has a new publication, available free online, to help you think about processing. “Farm Made: A Guide to On-Farm Processing for Organic Producers” covers four sample farm enterprises: sorghum syrup; packaged fresh salad greens; jams, jellies, and spreads; and table eggs. Take the principles involved and use then in your own farm enterprise! Read this report free online at : www.kerrcenter.com/whats-new.htm.
For yard and garden questions, call us and we’ll connect you to a Winona Master Gardener.
U of M Extension, County Office Building, 202 W. Third Street, Winona. Mon-Fri 8 -4:30, (507) 457-6440.