We have all heard the Chinese Proverb, Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. Well, that’s what The Great American Tomato Project is all about. This project is not only about getting food into the hands of hungry people, but also teaching them how to grow their own food. With very little fuss it is a great plant for non-gardeners to get a start with.
Tomato plants are some of the easiest and least expensive plants to grow. Depending on the variety it is possible to get upwards of 40lbs of food from a single plant. The cost to grow a plant through its life cycle from seed is estimated to be less than $1.50. Let that one sink in… close to 40lbs of food for about a dollar and a half.
Even if the plant does terrible due to lack of care, say only growing only a few pounds of tomatoes. The recipient had no out of pocket cost, no doubt learned something along the way, and ate a few healthy vegetables.
The Plan:In February we are asking experienced gardeners (or anyone wanting to participate) to start however many tomato plants from seed that they feel they can handle. The gardener will choose which variety they will grow until it is time to donate the plant. If a variety is grown that is meant to remain as a potted plant (patio plant) then we would ask that the gardener donate the plant in a full size pot. The recipient of the tomato plant will most likely not have the resources or knowledge to repot the plant into a larger container.
There are many organizations that would really appreciate the donation of plants as well as your produce. I know the food banks in Oklahoma accept these donations. They were on Oklahoma Gardening over the summer of 2012 asking for these. I know many of you live outside of Oklahoma. As you donate your plants, please post a comment below. Do not feel like you are touting that you are doing this by any means, we need your comment so that others will know where they can donate and we are not duplicating work.
- Don't be scared!
- Make sure it is warm enough for your plant. Keep your seedling inside at night until it consistently stays above 50 degrees at night and take it outside during the day.
- Plant your Seedling in a pot at least 12 inches deep if it is a patio variety or in the ground where it will receive at least 8 hours of sunlight.
- When you plant it you will want to leave onlythe top two sets of leaves, the other leaves get gently removed (or snipped off) and will be below the dirt. That's right, plant it all the way up to the leaves.
- Make sure to water well and often. Try your best to keep watering consistent.
Some of My Favorite Video Resources:
- Repotting Tomato Seedlings
- Shallow planting of Tomato Seedlings
- Early Pruning of a Tomato Plant
- How to Prune a Tomato Plant for Optimal Fruit Production Video
Tricks & Tidbits:
- If you plant marigolds or opal basil intermingled with your tomato plants you will repel Hornworms!
- You can root the suckers you remove from your tomato plants. Just start them out in potting mix and then transplant them outside.
- Use your left over banana peals to add potassium to your soil for your tomato plants. Just throw one in the whole before you set your tomato plant in the ground. To add a peal to your tomato plant after it has been added; dig a whole carefully near your plant and bury it.
- Ensure your tomato plant receives enough calcium by once a week adding crushed eggshells when you water. Six eggshells per quart of water is recommended.