24K Heirloom Tomatoes & Friends


Your tomatoes will be in the pots for about 6-8 weeks. We never plant before June 1st. The weather in south Dartmouth is too likely to be cool and wet until June. Tomatoes languish in cool wet soil. Planting them before June risks a very bad start for no apparent gain. Tomatoes planted the first week of June do as well or better than those planted earlier. They ripen at the same time! There is no perceived benefit to justify the risk of exposing them to bad weather conditions. There is an emotional urgency to plant early, I know. I have succumbed many times. But try to put a lid on it, for your plants' sake. Plants that get off to strong start seem to do much better throughout the season. Plants that get off to a weak start never seem to flourish.


There are many ways to plant tomatoes. But all methods need preparation. Tomatoes need healthy soil, lots of space, support, constant all day sun and adequate water-applied correctly.

I start in the fall to prepare the soil. I spread and till in aged, composted cow or horse manure. (Never use fresh manure in the spring.) Then I cover the field with winter rye. This is done in October after all the plants have been removed. In the spring, before the rye gets too tall, I till the rye under to give the soil its nutrition. I test the soil for pH. Tomatoes like slightly acidic soil, so you do not want to add lime unless absolutely necessary. If the pH is above 7, you probably want to add potash to lower the pH to the tomatoes' comfort range. Then you want to till the soil. The best way to till is a highly debated topic as of late. There is a big emphasis on tilling by hand so that you do not kill the organisms that live in the soil. I am an adherent to that philosophy based on my experience. I used to use a rear tine Honda Roto Tiller (the best I have ever experienced.) It won't kill your back and shoulders. On flat soil I have actually tilled with one hand and drunk coffee with the other hand. And only two times did the tiller require more than one pull to start the engine: the first time there was no gas. The second time the machine was turned off.

If you have a small space, you might want to consider a Mantis. I had a gas powered Mantis for thirty five years. They are a pleasure to use. My first was a two stroke; louder than a four stroke and you have to mix the gas and oil. But the Honda 4 stroke engine was much less reliable, needs more maintenance, with the less expensive two stroke, due to the constant problems I have had with the four stroke. I bought an electric Mantis in 2018. It is a joy starts with a push of a button! Nogas to buy, mix and spill. No noise. It does not dig as deep but the benefits are worth the loss.

But, If you don't have a very large garden and you have the time and energy, I highly recommend not using a roto tiller! I have been tilling areas by hoe and hand and the results are much better. My garden was getting exhausted, even though I was adding manure and planting winter rye correctly. The living organisms add the rich vitality that your vegetables need to flourish. Try not to kill them. Till by hand, hoe, broadfork or pitchfork and you will be rewarded handsomely for your efforts! And addworms if they are not visible when you turn the soil.

Planning Your Garden Space >>>