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A little thyme in the garden The perfect tomato-growing ‘recipe,’ gardening classes and what to trim now

By Roy Odom • May 5, 2018 at 10:30 AM

We must all keep our fingers, toes, and eyes crossed and hope spring is finally here. The weather has been ideal for the last week or so. Warmer days and warmer nights allow us to begin planting our containers and gardens. As I have said before, May 10 is our last average frost date. Usually by that date, frosts are over. Have I seen frosts at a later date? YES.

I want to begin by thanking everyone who came out to Exchange Place over the weekend for the Garden Faire. WOW, what a turnout. I was helping Christy Shivell with her heirloom tomatoes, herbs, perennials and native shrubs. 

 One lady asked me for the recipe to grow tomatoes. Here it is. Tomatoes are from Central Mexico. The soils there are on the alkaline side, where ours are acidic. I begin by digging a hole like I am planting a small tree. I gather rotted manure, dolomitic limestone, Epsom salts, Espoma Tomato Tone and straw. I plant the tomato deep so that the very top leaves are showing. I mix the manure with the topsoil and even top dress with more rotted manure. Tomatoes can produce roots anywhere on their stem. Planting them deep increases the number of roots and makes the tomato a little more drought resistant. I add one tablespoon of Epsom salts around the plant before I straw them in. The Epsom salts provide magnesium to prevent blossom end rot. I also add about a cup of dolomitic limestone pellets to help with pH and to provide calcium. I then water them in and either stake or cage them.

Keep Kingsport Beautiful will be providing gardening classes at the Farmers Market beginning May 12. I will be doing a class on Gardening 101 for new gardeners or gardeners new to this area. We will begin at 9 a.m. You can do some shopping and then attend the class. The classes are FREE. I look forward to seeing y’all there. Please go to the Keep Kingsport Beautiful Facebook page for more information on other classes.

Keep Kingsport Beautiful will also be conducting its Saturday in the Garden Tour. This will be June 16 and we have some FANTASTIC gardens on the tour this year. Tickets are now available, and again, the Keep Kingsport Beautiful Facebook page has ALL the details.

OK, folks, for those of you biting at the bit to trim things, NOW is the time to trim those spring blooming shrubs. If you have azaleas, forsythia, lilacs, quince, dogwoods, camellias or rhododendrons, prune them as soon as they finish blooming. By pruning now, you encourage new growth, control height and spread and STILL should get blooms on your tree or shrub next spring.

If any of y’all are getting ready to bring home ferns, remember that they too love a tablespoon of Epsom salts. You can put it directly in the pot or basket or water it in. I use a tablespoon per pot and re-apply when the fern starts yellowing. We must remember that the soilless potting mixes have very little fertility in them. Whether you are using a natural fertilizer such as fish emulsion or a chemical fertilizer such as a blue powder, you must apply these fertilizers on a regular basis to keep your plants thriving through the summer. There are slow release fertilizers and I LOVE those.

Let us all get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. And I swear to y’all, the first person who complains about the heat, I shall fertilize your lawn so that you must mow daily. In the meantime, let us all root for each other and watch each other grow.

Roy H. Odom II, of Kingsport, holds a bachelor of science degree in ornamental horticulture and landscape design from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Herbs and vegetable production are his favorite subjects. He is a member of the Creative Thymes Garden Club and Keep Kingsport Beautiful. E-mail him at [email protected]

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