A Yellow Thumb

Can somebody please tell me the secret to growing tomatoes?  The first year we were here we didn’t really have a garden but we did buy tomato plants and put them in pots.  That didn’t work out so well – there was little growth, and what growth we did have was yellow.  The fruit was small and few.

The next year we built raised beds, I started big boy tomatoes from seed during May and planted them Memorial Day weekend.  What we ended up with were grape tomatoes – someone put the wrong seeds in the packet – not our fault, but a disappointing harvest.

We again started with big boy tomato plants the next year.  They grew big and strong, there were tons of tomatoes… and then the tomato blight destroyed them all in a matter of days.

Last year was actually a decent year.  We again planted big boys and we upped our chances with a wheelbarrow full of aged horse manure from our neighbors that we added to the soil, plus a little extra in each hole we dug for the plants.  The plants were big and strong with lots of fruit (although all summer, every year we pick off tons of yellow leaves).  We encountered our very first tomato horn worms – have you ever seen them??  They are disgusting!  They are the larva of the giant hawkmoth – three or four inches long, green, fat, with a horn – and they can eat your crop in a matter of days.  We dodged a bullet by removing the worms by hand and cutting them in half.  It was a good harvest, although harvest around here is not until September and so we picked a brown grocery bag full of half-ripe tomatoes and brought them with us on vacation.  They all ripened at once and they were delicious… but that was a boat-load of tomatoes to eat in one week.

This year we planted big boy and beefsteak tomato plants.  These plants are the biggest yet – but as per usual, we are picking off yellow leaves.  I have been surveying my plants every day to make sure there are no tomato horn worms – and there was no evidence of them until two nights ago, when I spent the night at my mom’s house, and my husband found and killed seven of them!!  Those suckers just seem to appear, full-size, out of nowhere.  The vigilance must continue.

So what is the secret?  Do I need better soil?  Should we be adding something to the soil?  Too much or too little water?  Is it who we are buying our plants from?  I used to have a real green thumb… but now, it’s only an ugly shade of yellow.

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