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Zone 8 TEXAS - Growing TOMATOES season 2012

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I started this thread to learn how grow better tomato plants in my Zone 8, Dallas, Texas.
We all live in different climate and zones, and to me it is really important to understand what works better in my kind of environment - that's why I'd like to focus this thread on what will work better in my area.
I'd like to share my experience with Davesgarden members and I hope to hear and learn from you in Zone 8 TX on how to grow great tomatoes.
I'd also would like to encourage other members to start selected threads to their area, so we can all benefit from their learning.
Good luck to y'all.


I have transplanted out my tomato plants last Friday February 17th.
After watching the weather forecast I decide to transplant out my seedlings.
Soil temperature 55F, outside temperature 60F.
Since this is Dallas, I didn't expect to rain ... especially all day and all night !
I thought my poor baby tomatoes did drawn ...
Instead they are doing just fine ... for now.

The plastic cover did really help with the rain and the lower night temperature.

This message was edited Feb 25, 2012 8:34 PM

Thumbnail by drthor
Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

Here are all my 40 tomato plants under cover

Thumbnail by drthor
SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Drthor,
They don't look any worse for wear! Good thing you had the plastic up! I'm ordering some from the Territorial link you sent me. How long are your pvc pieces? The perforated plastic is only 6' wide, so I'll have to cut my 10' lengths to make lower hoops, yes?

Also, I see a drip tape snaking through the beds? Is it on an automatic timer? How often are you cycling on and off, and for how long each cycle?

Linda

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I did harden off my tomatoes for 10 days at least. Under sun, wind and rain.
The plants were at least 3' high.

Thumbnail by drthor
Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

Gymgirl, my PVC pipes are 7.5'.
I sweet talk a guy at Lowes and he cut them for me in the store.
I have a soaker hose connected with a timer.
Normally I ran it 3 times a week for 20 minutes (making sure that the wather pressure is low).
I pin down the soaker hose just my the stem of the tomato plant.

On the new bed you can see in the first picture my soaker hose goes around 3 times in the bed, so I run it only for 10 minutes.

But honestly after the rain of last week ... I will not turn the water on anytime soon.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

So, your hoops are just a tad under 4' tall...ok.

At 3' tall, you've got a LOT of stem underneath, yes? You're gonna have some massive root systems!

Linda

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

If you are able to see the tomato plants through the plastic you can see how only the upper part of the plants is showing.
Everything else is laying horizzontally under ground. So each plant will have at least 2' of roots.
This huge root made a big difference last year with our crazy weather.
I had tons of tomatoes and very strong plants.

Now ... I transplanted about 3 weeks ago my 4" best tomatoes in a 6" pot.
I left my second best in the 4" pot.

Both plants grew the same hight.
The plants in the 6" pot developed larger leaves and they were more stable, while the 4" pots fell down a couple of time and not so large leaves.

When I transplanted the plant, it was much harder to plant the 6" pots and easy to plant the 4".
Most of those huge leaves had to be cut anyway to create roots underground.

The 4" pot tomatoes were NOT root bound.
The 6" pot tomatoes were full of roots (even if I didn't like very much the potting soil I used from Living Earth Technology here in Dallas - but I think my plants did like it)

So ... my question is: is it really worth for 3 weeks to pot up my tomatoes in a 6" pot?

Thumbnail by drthor
Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

Gymgirl,
yes ... huge roots.
The roots are planted just under the soaker hose, so the all 2' + root will get water.
Seriously ... you remember last here in TX - this made a huge difference.
Let's see this year.

I also tried to plant each plant under a PVC pipe, so if there will be snow or something heavy on the plastic, the pcv pipe will protect the plannt better ... instead the plat be under the plastic and in between the 2 PVC pipes ....
I dunno how to explain ...
But in the past, with snow the plastic went down into the plants ...

Anyway ... wish us luck ... I am no expert !

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Drthor,
I understand what you're trying to say.

You planted your seedlings as directly underneath a section of the pvc pipe as you could, so any weight on top of the plastic from snow, or water buildup, etc. would not cause the plastic to sag down and rest on top of your plant....

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

yes, perfect English, grazie

Carrollton, TX(Zone 8a)

Just put your PVC hoops a little closer together. I'm also making my hoops removable by putting the ends through brackets attached to the outside of my raised beds instead of sticking them into the dirt within the raised beds. Lastly, at the apex my PVC hoops they pass through a hole driiled in the center of a 2" x 2" cedar board (length determined by the length of the rb) to stabilize and keep the hoops from collapsing under weight of snow or ice. I can also roll up the frost cloth from the bottom sides up to the top and attach it to the board on sunny days when I don't want the beds covered. No ideas were original to me; I just borrowed them from other people smarter than me.

Feel free to scold me again if I got off topic.(ha) I really do want to follow the rules.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

okl hrp50
now that you are back ... you are everywhere.
Good idea about the pvc hoops ...
Hopefuly NO SNOW anymore !

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

MOMOTARO tomato.
I know some of you is growig this tomato.
After I transplanted the Momotaro outside ... I just realized that it has a kind of fur on its leaf ... I never seen before !
It is like the fur on the stem of some tomatoes ... but on the leaf .. interesting ...

Today my tomatoes are still good and alive. No signs of cold burn ...

Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

drthor, are your plants uncovered during the day, else won't they need to be hardened off again once the plastic is removed?

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

Yes my plants are under the plastic cover right now (the one with the holes).
No need to harden off after I remove the cover ... I think ...
I never had a problem before ...

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

The perforated plastic allows for air circulation and rainwater..

Carrollton, TX(Zone 8a)

Since my tomato seedlings are no where near ready to be planted out and I'm getting really impatient to do so, I thought I would try and speed up the next phase, hardening off, by putting my seedlings under a ceiling fan inside the house. Problem is the fan only has one speed, high. Can this damage the seedlings? Can I safely leave them outside for a while today (it's a windy day) if they are in the shade? I'm not sure of the timing and when the hardening off should be begin.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

yes
Also ... and very important ... it avoids the plants to cook under the sun ... if the holes were not there my plants would cook under hot sun ... I had to go move the plastic up and over again at night.
With the holes I don't do anything.
I hope it will work for you too.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

hrp50
it is very windy out today ... I think you will do more damage if you put them outside.
If your fun has only one speed ... just keep it far away from the plants so you don't cause a tornado ... duuuuhhhh

Carrollton, TX(Zone 8a)

At what point do you remove the plastic for good? After the spring winds are over, whenever that is?

This message was edited Feb 20, 2012 1:05 PM

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

hrp50,
My seedlings have been in a room inside with the ceiling fan on medium, PLUS a box fan blowing from across the room, 24/7. They get enough breeze on them to move their leaves a bit without blowing them over or causing them to lean.

I have determined that the wind can do almost as much (or even more) damage to a seedling as the beating rain or scorching sun. I think that blowing wind actually dehydrates a seedling or young plant. In any case, I'd take the rain or the sun. I live in a wind tunnel, and this fall/winter, I had to put up a hoop to avoid wind damage to my fall/winter seedlings. That wind can be brutal to a young plant.

The good part about the wind tunnel was that, after my tomatoes were established last January, I got FANTASTIC pollination from all that wind! Didn't need a single bee to do a thing!

Best crop I ever harvested.

Linda

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Drthor,
If you think the Momotaro fur is fascinating, just wait until you see the fruit. It is a totally beautiful tomato!

LMK what you think.

P.S. Some have decided Momotaro is "stingy" with the fruit. Not my experience. I had more than enough for myself! And, after I tasted my first one, I wasn't giving ANY away, anyways!

Linda

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

hrp50
last year I removed the PVC hoop and cover on March 14th
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/p.php?pid=8426247

but I had to put back the plastic right away because the wind was too strong:
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/p.php?pid=8426711

March 23, 2011 I just lowered the plastic
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/p.php?pid=8445656

I think I did remove the plastic at the beginning of April ...

The wind was really bad last year ...

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Quoting:
....If your fun has only one speed ...


My fun has many speeds.....sometimes I cannot keep up with it. heh heh.....I love funny typos

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

oh oh
I am a funny face !!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Some days, my fun runs faster than others! LOL!

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

Today outside temperature (around 3pm) was almost mid 70s F.
Inside the hoop house was also very cozy.
My tomato transplants are very very happy !

Thumbnail by drthor
Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

This is a view of my new tomato garden from my second floor.

Thumbnail by drthor
Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Nice! Love the 'tunnel'.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

MaryMcP
are you tomatoes out yet?

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Not yet.....soon come.

Nauvoo, AL(Zone 7a)

Looks great drthor.
I enjoyed reading about your tomatoes last year.......as I am now too.
I just love your little mini tunnel. Reminds me of a caterpillar worm = the way it curves in and out with the landscape.

Happy Gardening

Myrtle Beach, , SC(Zone 9a)

Here's a few cool pics from our customers....
Check out Penny's Tomatoes at http://www.pennystomatoes.com and you may want to join our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/173237469374495#!/pages/Pennys-Tomatoes-and-Pepper-Joes/204328085055
Tomato-Ly Yours,
Penny

Thumbnail by pepperjoe Thumbnail by pepperjoe Thumbnail by pepperjoe
Nauvoo, AL(Zone 7a)

Hey Penny. I don't know about others on this page but I am already a follower. And my Peter Peppers have germinated and looking great. So has the Bianca tomato.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

Dear Penny,
I am glad that you found this post.
I need all the help possible.

CricketsGarden ...caterpillar ... yes you are right!

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I am so glad that I transplanted my tomatoes outside last week.
My next planting date should have been tomorrow and the wind is supposed to be 35 mph ....

Carrollton, TX(Zone 8a)

For those of us whose tomato seedings are not yet ready to be planted out, North Haven Gardens in Dallas is expecting to start getting in tomato transplants this Thursday. I haven't seen them anywhere else, have you?

Carrollton, TX(Zone 8a)

Oh happy day!

I stopped in at Callaway’s this afternoon after receiving an email from them yesterday. Vegetable transplants are $2.29 today. Tomorrow they will cost $1.60 (30% off regular price). Even though I got the days mixed up, they still sold them to me today at tomorrow’s discounted price. They had a pretty good selection of tomatoes, peppers and other veggies. I bought one Box Car Willie and one Early Girl tomato transplant since I didn't plants seeds of either one this year. I also bought a flat of overbearing strawberries to replenish my strawberry towers. My OCD has been
allayed, at least for now.

Oh shucks, do transplants purchased at a nursery need to be hardened off?

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

They DEFINITELY do need to be hardened off...something they don't include in the fine print...

Carrollton, TX(Zone 8a)

Gymgirl
I was afraid of that! Ok, give me the short-cut, Reader's Digest version of hardening off tomato transplants. Do you think that I will be able to plant them in the ground over this weekend? This time, please give me good news

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