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What a terrific tomato season
By Wally Schmidtke | Columnist
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Published: 10/2/2010 12:01 AM

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Pesche's Garden Center would like to thank The Daily Herald for sponsoring our Tremendous Tomato Contest. The response to the contest and the Tremendous Tomato Tips by readers of The Daily Herald has been excellent!

We've received several tomato entries over 2 pounds. When the contest comes to an end on Sunday, Oct. 10, we will post the winner and runners up on our website as well in the Herald's Home and Garden section.

The 2010 growing season has been great for tomato production; our customers have reported bumper crops. My garden was very successful thanks to Dr. Earth Organic Tomato, Vegetable and Herb Fertilizer and as well as good sound organic practices. I did have to spray Bonide's Bon - Neem Insecticidal Soap a few times to control spider mites and white flies. I've always stated that early detection of plant problems is the key to a healthy garden. One way of watching for problems before they happen is to keep good garden records. I mark a calendar with any insect or diseases for the growing year. Next year's planting season I'll review the calendar and my notebook and start plant inspections a week or two earlier. Here's a list of data that bears recording:

· Do a diagram of your garden for possible crop rotation next year and for improving spacing or additional plantings.

· Weather - Every year is different! I print out a copy of the month's reports from one of the weather channels on the internet. I use a soil thermometer and record soil temperatures; this season temperatures where consistently near 80°.

· Date of planting - Did you plant too early or too late?

· Type of cultivars - I save the plant tags from my most successful tomato plants noting yield, flavor and disease resistance. All the tomato varieties that we grow are on our web site. Go to www.pesches.com , click on Greenhouses on the home page, then in the left column click on Pesche's Vegetables & Herbs. All new varieties and heirlooms are listed as well as a P.D.F. file from our seed supplier.

· Problems - Insect pests, animal pests, diseases and weed problems.

· A list of fertilizers and amendments used and when applied. Bring in the dimensions of your garden this fall and whatever problems occurred and we give you the proper advice to get your garden in great shape for 2011.

· Document your garden digitally as it grows, then place your photos on a disk for reference or just garden day dreaming about giant, juicy, healthy organic tomatoes this winter!

Our gardens where bountiful this year and when the tomatoes become ripe there's sometimes an overabundance. Make sure to share your produce with your family and neighbors. Consider the needy in our area. Produce can be dropped off at local food pantries. Check out http://www.dailyherald.com/lifestyle/homegarden/givinggarden/ for local drop off sites. Remember the spirit of America; there are hungry people in our area. Please contribute overages from "Your Victory Gardens"; a bounty of blessings will be returned to you!

Thanks again to The Daily Herald for sponsoring the contest and all the enthusiasm its readers and our customers have shown. What fun and good eating! We can't wait for the end of the contest to see the winners.

Tremendous Tomato Contest Rules

•Tomatoes must be grown by entrant. Purchased fruit is inegible. All entries must include a photo of the submitted tomato growing on the vine shortly before harvest.

•Entries must be brought into Pesche's Garden Center for weighing.

•Tomatoes must be a minimum of 2 pounds for entry. Winning tomatoes will be determined by weight and size.

•Entrants will agree to have their names and images used for publicity by contest partners Pesche's and the Daily Herald and will agree to share their techniques for success, including soil condition, fertilizers and other growing methods.

•Contest ends Oct. 10

Prizes

•First place: $100 Pesche's Gift Card plus more than $100 worth of organic products determined by Pesche's.

•Second place: $75 Pesche's Gift Card plus more than $75 worth of organic products determined by Pesche's.

•Wally Schmidtke has been a manager at Pesche's Garden Center for 20 years. Wally is a horticulturalist; an expert in plant pathology, and insect problems. His favorite subject is organic gardening. His hobby is raising organic heirloom tomatoes.