Set out your tomato plants as early as possible. In Houston that should be about the second or third week of February. It takes about 6 weeks for the plant to be mature enough to fruit and they fruit best when nighttime temperatures are in the 50’s or 60’s. We get very little of that temperature range in the Houston area. Once we start having days in the 90’s with nighttime lows in the mid 70’s tomato production will be reduced or terminated. Your window of opportunity is mostly during April and May. If the temperature drops below 35˚ cover the plant with frost cloth or a sheet, etc. Dig a hole and add one teaspoon of rock phosphate or bone meal in the bottom. Set the tomato in the ground lower than it was in the pot, even burying the seed leaves. Sprinkle the ground around the plant with a half cup of cornmeal. This will be fungal protection. Tomatoes need to be staked or caged. Indeterminate tomatoes need a cage or stake at least 5′ tall. As leaves near the bottom turn yellow or brown remove and discard them. You can spray them every other week with seaweed extract and/or compost tea but do not fertilize with nitrogen until the first flower is set. Then lightly fertilize with fish emulsion or a prepared organic tomato fertilizer. It is usually advisable to add calcium to the soil at that time in the form of ag bone meal, rock phosphate, gypsum, egg shells or even powdered milk (my grandmother’s solution). Pick the tomatoes as soon as they start to turn red (if they are a red tomato) and let them ripen at room temperature. Never put them in the refrigerator.
We make compost tea from the worm castings from our vermiculture bins. We put 10 pounds of worm compost, a half cup of fish emulsion, 1/2 cup seaweed extract, and one cup of molasses in a 55 gallon drum of water from our tilapia tank. We add aerators and wait 24 hours. You can then put some of the tea on a slide and check under the microscope to see if it is teaming with microbial action. Then spray it on the vegetables, fruit trees and bare ground before planting. Once the tea is made it should be used within a few hours. It is a fungicide, deters some bugs and fertilizes the plants. It increases the microbial action in the soil and is an excellent foliar feed for any plant. Spray in the mornings before the sun hits the plants whenever possible.
Here is a formula for making compost tea in a five gallon bucket:
Put 4 cups of good fungus rich compost in a cloth paint strainer
add—1 tablespoon liquid seaweed
1 tablespoon hydrolysate fish
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon of a good sea salt for root vegetables
Fill the bucket with rain water or river water and aerate with an aquarium bubbler for 24 hours.
The best compost is worm compost, but if you have some good compost you can make it better. Take a pound of compost, add 1/4 pound of rolled oats, 1 tablespoon each of fish emulsion, seaweed extract, humic acid, and molasses. Moisten the mixture and let it sit for a week, mixing it every other day.