Friday, February 22, 2013

Mold and eggshells: tips for tomatoes I never would have guessed

Throughout my quest to understand this new endeavor of gardening, I have already encountered several "tips of the trade" that seem almost counter intuitive. Oddly enough, they all seem to revolve around tomato plants.

Bury it deep

One of the most basic things I encountered was the idea of cutting all branch growth from the stem up to the top 2 or 3 viable leaves (or nodes) at time of planting, then actually burying the base of the plant deep, so that only those top leaves are exposed. Plant starts seem so delicate that I couldn't have imagined literally cutting them up before planting them. The only plant I can recall burying deep like this was my first clematis plant. Also, the fibrous hairs growing off the stem are potential roots, so the more you get below the surface, the more faster your tomato plant will grow.

Shallow beds

In cases where raised beds are being used, and you cannot bury your plant 12" deep and allow it grow down another 12" or more, you can actually bury it horizontally. Start by cropping the lower branches the same as previously mentioned, dig a trench horizontally in your dirt, lay the root and stem in the trench, and gently bend the top leaves vertically so they are pointing to the sky. The roots will find soil no matter where it is, so as long as you have done your work properly there, it should be okay.

Collecting seeds
This is one of the more intriguing processes I encountered. Most fruits and vegetables have a general area of seed growth, and tomatoes are no different; just open one up and you'll know what I mean. The seeds are neatly arranged from the center columella, or core, in the locular cavity contained in a gel-like substance called gelatinous membrane. It's fun to collect seeds and figure out how to actually maneuver them -- this stuff sticks to EVERYTHING! I found that dropping the seeds into a strainer/sifter works well.

What was interesting was the variations I found for removing seeds. Perhaps the most odd of all is the fermentation process. You start by putting all the seeds and gel-like membrane into a jar, cover it with about 1"-2" of water and allow if ferment in a sunny window for 1-2 weeks. This will produce a moldy scum on the top and aid in killing any bacteria that might have affected any of the seeds. Strain it, rinsing the mold and membrane from the seed, then allow the seeds to dry on a brown paper bag or plate for 1-2 weeks.

I would never have imagined combining eggshells with the planting process. However, it turns out that eggshells are a great way to add extra nutrients (calcium) to your tomato plants, and the even act as a slug deterrent at the same time. One quick place I looked was ehow and this is the recipe offered.


  1. I'm completely fascinated by the idea of burying the tomatoes horizontally. Huh! I have shallow raised beds. So I may be considering that idea!

  2. Seems like something I'd like to try in addition to a traditional vertical plating, just to compare if one does better than the other.