Earls Hole Method of Growing Tomatoes

earl(SW Ohio 5-6)January 15, 2007

EarlÂs Hole Method of Growing Tomatoes

Items from Walmart type garden center, 40 lb. bags of Composted Peat Humus, 40 lb. bags of Composted Cow Manure, Epson Salt and Bonemeal and Espoma Tomato-tone® 4-7-10 fertilizer or equivalent .

In raised beds, after tilling, I dig good sized holes about 2 feet across, scattering the soil around the hole. Then to each hole I add ½ bag of the peat humus, 1/4 bag of the manure, then I scatter about the hole a handful each of Epson salts, Bonemeal and Espoma. Then I use a spade fork to mix the formula VERY well some inches beyond the depth and width of the original hole. If plants are indeterminate they should be planted at least 4 feet apart.

I then, using my hands, I make a hole in the center of this mixture and plant the seedlings. If seedlings are tall I strip off the leaves except for the top few inches, and lay it at an angle or on its side in the hole and cover up to the leaves. Then I form a 4 inch deep water holding basin [a crater] about 1 1/2 feet across and around the plant, then mulch the plants and bed with straw or grass clippings, then water. Last I spread a handful of granular fertilizer such as Espoma Tomato-tone® 4-7-10 on top of the mulch around the plants so it will leach into soil over time and feed the outer roots for they grow wide and deep. I use concrete wire cages 18-20 inches across and anchor them with rebar driven deep next to the cage. When I have to water, if I donÂt get rain in 7-10 days, I stick an open ended hose at the base of the plants and give them a couple gallons.

Never over water. The plantÂs leaves will tell you theyÂre thirsty by drooping a bit. As the plants grow, to help prevent leaf disease, trim any branches that droop and touch the mulch.

During late summer if I think they need it I'll give each plant a couple gallons of fish emulsion or what ever liquid type I have. And if you have leaf problems, get started early using Daconil as soon as you plant, even saturate the mulch around the base as well as top and bottom of leaves.

I can't say this is the best way to do it, but it works for me.

Earl

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reginald_25(5)

to each hole I add ½ bag of the peat humus, 1/4 bag of the manure, then I scatter about the hole a handful each of Epson salts, Bonemeal and Espoma...

Now Earl, sounds to me like a somewhat anal-retentive gardening practice. Butt if it typically produces 40# of fruit per plant, why would one want to employ another method ? I mean, just plant ~25 plants utilizing this method and expect to harvest ½ ton of tomato fruits.

Reg

    Bookmark   January 15, 2007 at 3:29PM
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ediej1209(5 N Central OH)

Hey Earl... can't argue with success! I am going to give your method a try this summer. Thanks for sharing the info!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2007 at 4:21PM
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earl(SW Ohio 5-6)

I knew it was you. I can smell you a mile away. :-)

    Bookmark   January 15, 2007 at 5:26PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

Earl, you're either giving away your secrets or sending me on a wild goose chase. I'm betting on the former.

Jim

    Bookmark   January 15, 2007 at 8:22PM
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naturalstuff(Z6 / CT)

Earl, can you post a picture of this as seedlings are in the ground and possibly one as you prepare the bed? Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2007 at 9:53PM
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fusion_power

I add one major item that Earl does not use. Thats a shovel full of hardwood ashes from my wood heater. Its about a quart of powdery gray ashes if you measure it. Why use this? Because my plants are going into soil that tends to be slightly acidic. The wood ashes supply potassium and raise the PH to about the right level.

I also prefer to use rabbit manure instead of cow. The rabbit manure causes fewer problems. If you don't have access to rabbit manure, try locating a bag of rabbit feed. You can put about 10 pounds well mixed into the soil under each tomato plant and get fantastic results.

Fusion

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 12:38AM
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earl(SW Ohio 5-6)

Stuff,
I'll have to look at pictures and see what I have.

I agree with Fusion on the ashes if you need them, and rabbit instead of cow is fine, Use any manure just make sure it's composted or a kind that won't harm the plants.

Jim, it's really no secret. I'll been posting this recipe for years here at GW. Just haven't been around much the past year. Hopefully, someone will give a testimonial as to it working for them.

edie, I wasn't talking to you. :-)

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 8:12AM
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donnak_nc(zone 7)

Hey!! Didn't I remember someone ribbing you about throwing match sticks in the mix or something? I thought I remembered Carolyn pickin' at ya about your ritual. LOL My plants usually do pretty well but I am going to try a few like this for fun to compare. I have seen pics of your plants and maters; proof enough for me.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 8:29AM
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spyfferoni(z/5 UT)

I have alkaline soil, and have been told we shouldn't use Epsom salt. Any advice for alkaline soils? I have noticed a big difference when I work compost, peat moss, and bone meal into the planting holes though. How can you tell when the plants are wilting from heat, and when they need water?

Thanks,
Tyffanie

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 2:17PM
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brazosvalleygardener(TX Zone 8)

Earl,

I've started using your method a couple of years ago with excellent results. But one thing I changed was that I got tired of digging holes. Especially in my case where I had to dig quite a few and thought of what would happen if I just distributed the ingredients that you list above all along the top of each tomato bed. Then mix or scratch them into the original tomato soil.

Guess what?

They grew just as well as the ones that were in holes. In fact that same initial season I tried this I grew one section with holes and then had several other rows with the "no hole digging" method and the results were just the same.

You might consider giving it a try to avoid the strenous digging involved.

Jay

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 2:30PM
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ediej1209(5 N Central OH)

Hey Earl - glad you clarified that! ;-)

How tall are your cages? You said 18-20" across. Do you vary the height depending on the variety or do you have a standard height for all of them? Would chicken cage wire work instead of the concrete wire? I know it has a more open mesh and is a little more flexible; would it still be able to hold the weight of a (hopefully!) fully loaded plant like the Kellogg's Breakfast?

Thank you for sharing your secrets!! :-)

Edie

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 4:59PM
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earl(SW Ohio 5-6)

Edie,
I'm pleased that you saw my clearification. :-) My cages are made from CRW [concrete re-inforsing wire] with 6 inch square opening, easy to reach into. I don't get to many fruit that won't come through. LOL. They're 5 feet tall, that's the tallest CRW I can find. I think chicken wire would be to thin. It would cut the branches off as they sagged from tomato weight. I seen pictures of cages made from PVC pipe.

Jay,
I only do 30-40 plants, in groups of a half dozen or so. Takes me about 2 weeks to do it, because of back problems.

I need to think about doing it your way. :-)

Spyff,
For a quick fix add powdered agricultural sulfur, aluminum sulfate or iron sulfate to the soil for a quick fix or add acidic organic matter, such as peat moss, pine needles and oak tree leaves until the pH level is correct.

Donna,
Yes, I get my share of ribbing, on most everything. :-) I don't mind good natured humor, but mean-spirited words can rile me. So everyone be sweet to me, please. LOL.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 6:20PM
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seedboy

Hey, nobody should laugh at Earl's method. I did something very similar last year and my tomatoes were extremely tall and productive. I had at least 50 tomatoes on most plants, and some with significantly more.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 10:37PM
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hortist(5/6)

... but mean-spirited words can rile me.

especially during this current cold snap

I didnt know Kathy was a redhead?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 11:30PM
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earl(SW Ohio 5-6)

LOL. Thanks, Keith, always good to start the morning with a good laugh! Jack Lemon gets better looking the older he gets, that's for sure. :-)

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 9:26AM
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cecilsgarden(z6 swPA)

Earl, thanks for that info again, but I never realized you had raised beds.

I'm mad at Walmart right now, because of the way they have been treating us employees, but if I would try this, I'll buy somewhere else.

Thanks again.

CECIL

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 7:39PM
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mawkhawk(Metro Detroit, MI/ Z6)

Earl, do you only fertilize as you noted in your original post or do you also have some sort of weekly / monthly fertilizing routine?

Do you also do a soil test before adding the Epsom salt?

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 11:49AM
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tedposey

Gee, if were that much trouble I'd never grow tomatos. Course I don't get the high production that Earl does and I don't have my own brand name variety either.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 2:11PM
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gonefishin(z7bTx)

Just a thought. By now most have probably seen the excellent study from way back in '26 on Root development in Vegetable Crops (linked below), and being aware that there is a considerable spread of the roots of tomato plants, how would this work. If digging individual holes is a problem, how about opening a deep furrow like to put those ammendments into and along the sides at the selected intervals. The furrow could be closed with plows or by hand after the ammendments are applied and worked in. Then the plants set and the watering crater created and mulch added.
Bill P.

Here is a link that might be useful: Root Development in Vegetable Crops

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 4:04PM
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hunter_tx(7bTx)

Earl, are you talking about the cheapie ole humus and manure at Walmart? I was under the impression that there wasn't much actual humus or manure in them. Mostly just topsoil-type dirt.
Mrs H

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 7:29PM
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larry_c(z6 Stl. Mo.)

Earl,
Back problems ?

30 plants would require buying, moving and dumping of 23 bags at 40 lbs. each. Equaling a tidy 900 lbs. and guessing at an average cost of $ 2.00 about $ 46.00. 40 plants equal 30 bags/1200 lbs/ $ 60.00...

FYI. Try glucosamine...it has recovered my joint problems..it works..its non script..over the counter..

CrAzY LaRrY

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 7:25AM
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gamebucketman(z8 UT)

spyfferoni (or anyone else)i was wondering where you heard that epsom salt was not something to put in alkaline soil? I live in St. George and also have to deal with alkaline soil.

Just today i was at Lowes and saw some epsom salt after i had read your post and picked it up and read the back and it said that 1 of its 2 main ingredients was sulfur which would help to correct alkaline soil. The other main ingredient being magnesium which from what ive read is something that areas of low rainfall are in need of.

So from what i can gather it might be a good thing for our area but would like to know what you (or anyone else) knows before i use it.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 2:52PM
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earl(SW Ohio 5-6)

ted, would you like for me to come over and dig them holes for you? :-)

gonefishin, I wish I was gone fishin!!! Try it and see how it works.

Cecil, you're welcome. I'm sorry that WalMart held a gun to your head and made you work for them. :-)

Mrs. H, I said, "Items from Walmart type garden center..." You don't have to buy from WalMart. :-)

mawkhawk said, "Earl, do you only fertilize as you noted in your original post or do you also have some sort of weekly / monthly fertilizing routine?

Do you also do a soil test before adding the Epsom salt?"

No, only as I said in original post, and I haven't done a soil test.

Larry, I take glucosamine, also give it to my dog. :-)

Hortist, thanks again for the laugh.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 6:52PM
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appmy

Maybe a dumb question...

Do you mean a couple gallons of straight fish emulsion or diluted to ratio the bottle says?

    Bookmark   January 20, 2007 at 12:33AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

Earl, if you dig Ted's holes for him, then it's only fair that you dig mine too. I'll provide lunch.

appmy, that really is a dumb question.

Jim

    Bookmark   January 20, 2007 at 12:49AM
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manzomecorvus(Austin TX 8B)

stumbled on this thread looking for something else, and thought y'all should know - if you are gardening in alkaline soil, y'all need to be adding greensand. i use about 1/4 cup per tomato plant - then side dress again about half way through the growing season.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2007 at 11:49AM
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tedposey

Thanks ever so much for the offer but after reading Larry's cost analysis I decided to stay with my simpler, current method. I plant about 3 dozen tomato plants.
BTW I grew some Earl's Faux last year and was very impressed. They began ripening about a week before my standby, Rutgers, and had slightly better flavor but not quite as prolific.
After the first big flush, both varieties kept bearing at a lower rate with smaller fruit until frost.
I tried saving seed but don't know yet how successful I was.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2007 at 11:35AM
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svarga6180

I was wondering why Jerry Baker suggests tieing the plant

up with a single piece of nylon stocking over using tall wire?

It seems to me the plant grows much bigger using the tall

wire,and you get more fruit.

Maybe it is quality over quantity that are the given

results that Jerry has with his method;I don't know.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2007 at 4:19PM
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instar8(Z 5 N.IN)

Jerry Baker also said you should sprinkle birth control pills on your lawn...too bad he died before the advent of Viagra, who knows what uses he'd have found for them!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2007 at 4:43PM
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spankykitty

Earl,
Pictures please... If possible.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2007 at 6:04PM
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joecessna

Earl,
after seeing the photo of your fall harvest of AGG I'm a believer. I have five Faux seedlings (a first for me) that I can't wait to try.
I'm trying quite a few beefsteaks in the hopes of finding one that will cope a bit better than most during our hot summers. Here's my beefsteak list for this year:

Marianna's Peace
Earl's Faux
Sudduth Brandywine
Stump of the World
Zogola
Mortgage Lifter
Costoluto Genovese
Magnus
Prudens Purple
Porterhouse Hybrid
Black Krim
Black from Tula
Cherokee Chocolate
Ananas Noir
Aunt Ruby's German Green
Green Giant
Georgia Streak
Kellogg's Breakfast
Aunt Gertie's Gold

Surplus plants I can't find room for I'll give away; my total grow list for this year is 40 varieties. It should keep me off the streets...

Joe

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 5:43PM
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maryinpnw(z8 OR)

Hi Earl,

Just waving at you from western Oregon, where we are having a brief sun break. Thanks for the planting formula. I am printing it. Should have tried it a long time ago.

Mary

    Bookmark   February 23, 2007 at 1:37PM
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tomatopicker(z9FL)

Sunshine Greetings from Florida...I was just thinking how this site just isn't the same with most of the testosterone humor having left...This year, I too have made my tomato cages from the concrete wire...They should do an EXCELLENT job! Now, can I grow/produce a tomato or two?!?! Thanks for the soil info and humor...nice...Susan and Miss Beth...The MontroseGang

    Bookmark   February 23, 2007 at 8:33PM
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earl(SW Ohio 5-6)

Dang, it sure is nice to see some ol' pals!!!

So, Susan, how are your plants doing? Did you get frost this year?

Hi, Mary, have you planted yet or are the temps still to low? And please quit allowing those weather fronts to come ashore 'cause they end up coming over my house and I'm sick and tired of snow and ice. :-) That lying chipmonk or warthog or whatever it was said we're gonna a warm spring. ha.

Joe, that's a whammy of a beefsteak list you've got there. Have you tried taking cuttings from you mature plants and rooting them in the shade during summer and then planting them for a fall crop? Should work for Susan also or anyone in the warmer zones.

Ted, thanks for letting me off the hook. Now Jim wants to put me back on it. LOL.

Kitty, I'm not sure if I have any hole pictures since I'm usually to tired when I quit to take any. :-)

    Bookmark   February 24, 2007 at 8:25PM
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joecessna

Earl,
no I haven't tried using cuttings; I usually make do with whatever fall tomatoes my spring plantings produce. As you know, it's pretty hit or miss depending on the first frost date. I have covered my beds to keep things going a bit longer than usual, but that has met with mixed success also. I might use a spare AC unit in the green house to do my own fall crop from seed. October ripened Brandywine, Faux and Cherokee Chocolate could be as good as it gets for North Texas... :)

Joe

    Bookmark   February 24, 2007 at 11:56PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

Where I live it's much cheaper to buy amendments at nurseries, if you have a trailer with sides or truck bed to haul them in. A yard of manure and peat moss, and /or composted fir bark, runs $15-16. I would pay a lot more buying by the bag at a garden center.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2007 at 7:39AM
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als_garden

Just need to know some advice on using ashes from the woodstove. When does one put the ashes on or around the plants...say tomatoes and cukes. is there a certain amount to use and how often? new to these ideas and would like some info please....mainly seedlings 2 inches tall and also cukes that started vining.....thanks Al

    Bookmark   February 26, 2007 at 11:36AM
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matolvr

Been doing something close to this for a few years now but will add a little moss to the mix and hit it with fish Em a little later. Added oak leaves for the last 2 years (in the fall) and had great results last year.

Gotta say between this and your pics of the pile of AGG I'm ready.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2007 at 3:54PM
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TJG911(z5b CT)

====> 'BTW I grew some Earl's Faux last year and was very impressed. They began ripening about a week before my standby, Rutgers, and had slightly better flavor but not quite as prolific.'

SLIGHTLY? i never grew rutgers but of the many varieties i have grown, VERY few tomatoes come close to the flavor of Earl's Faux, very few. that rutgers must be one heck of a tomato!

ya know there seems to be something missing here. oh i know - avatars. see you at the phpbb.

tom

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 12:52PM
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heirloomhoping

There are several swamps within 30 minutes of where i live.
Some places have naturally muched piles of dirt that appear to be good and rich.
Reading all of your posts on the best mixture of soil made
me wonder this might be good stuff to try.
Drive the pickup down there and load up.
Or for instance going somewhere that was notorious for their tomatoes "like StJohns " and doing the same.
All of the ingredients listed above would cost me over a hundred easy.
What is anyone's opinion on this.
I am not just trying to be economical but thought that nature could make as good a mix as Walmart.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 8:43PM
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windclimber(z5 KS,close to KCMO)

Sounds like Earls gotta handle on it! I use fish emulsion on almost everything! Kinda makes the place smell like the seashore.
Started using it years ago on Aroids and use it for tree and shrubs all over the property.
I wondered about the tomatoes, but not now.
As for the soil, I have been loading up at the landfills recycle center where they compost grass clippings and yard waste, but I can tell you if you can find a recycle center around where you live,that has it, you will never buy bags of stuff again.
ph balanced and all NPK you want.There is a place here in KC that sells it for 27.00 a cubic yard (one 6' long pickup bed load)
Good luck-- Search your browsers yellow pages for recycled, or organic compost.
Tom

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 11:24PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

I haven't finished reading this yet just thought I'd bump it up for the person looking for "?Ed's?" secret tomato hole.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 11:55PM
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curlytater480

Rutgers is a fine tasting, medium sized tomato which i'll always have in my garden. Flavor is great!!! Very prolific. I picked my last Rutgers around mid-January this year and I'll be planting it again in the fall around late September.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 11:26AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

bump

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 12:22PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Rutgers vs Earl's Faux? hmmmmmm...

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 2:44AM
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the666bbq

I am sorry but why waste a lot of peat for this reason ? It is a pitty already that peat is added as a cheap medium to most growing media these days - if you can choose (and when you get a bag of pure of composted peat you can choose) leave the peat - peat enriches only the pockets of the peat-industry ...

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 6:14AM
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kurt_amundo(5b/6a)

Hi Earl,

Seems like a lot of trouble just to grow some silvery firs. ;-)

Kurt

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 7:37AM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

the666bbq, I think "composted peat humus" is about the closest you can come to readily available "compost" in a bag. Not everyone can make their own compost, for various reasons. And peat of any kind is readily available quite cheap in North America (I see you're in Belgium.)

Do you have any suggestions what we in N.A. should do with all this peat? (besides leaving it alone.)

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 11:24AM
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doof

If I understand correctly, peat is a NON-renewable resource. Surprised me, when I heard that, too. It takes thousands of years to create a peat bog.

From wikipedia: "Because of the challenging ecological conditions of peat wetlands, they are home to many rare and specialised organisms that are found nowhere else. Some environmental organisations and scientists have pointed out that the large-scale removal of peat from bogs in Britain, Ireland and Finland is destroying precious wildlife habitats. It takes centuries for a peat bog to regenerate."

Well, centuries then?

Another quote: "Most modern peat bogs formed in high latitudes after the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last ice age some 9,000 years ago. They usually grow slowly, at the rate of about a millimetre per year."

Here is a link that might be useful: Peat

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 4:04PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

doof, was that a general FYI/Info post or was it aimed at any particular post/poster?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 3:01PM
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doof

Oh, it was another typical slightly off topic trivia thing, I guess. Peat is an interesting subject actually. Think about it. Nine thousand year old peat. I used it for years, thinking it was just some type of compost. The widespread overuse of peat is a big topic with some environmentalists.

Personally, I always have a great big bag of it. The alkaline clay soil here seems to profit from it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 2:21AM
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fusion_power

Somebody out there will want to read this one sometime soon.

Fusion

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 9:05AM
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tomatod(7-8)

I use essentially the same method as Earl and it works great. I'm using raised beds and the concrete re-enforcing wire, and the hole method. If you spend a little extra time in preperation it will make all the difference in the world. Get the hole deep and wide and fill it back with the ingredients Earl uses. I am a big believer in Seaweed Solution, so I add some of that too. The fish emulsion is great, too.

Aggrand and AlgoFlash are two wonderful tomato fertilizers and I believe both can be found on line.

I would advise against the chicken wire as mentioned above. There is no way to harvest the tomatoes. Another reason Earl uses the CRW. You can get your hand in and out easy, and rarely have a fruit that you can't get through it.

Thanks again Earl for the post! Remember to do it again in the Spring.

Don

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 9:27PM
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tom8olvr(Z5 MA)

How did I miss this post??? You folks are hilarious! Thanks for the post, Earl!!! I'm thinking of using this method for some new beds! Thanks!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 9:38AM
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rlr1(zone 8)

Great post Earl !!! I am a first time gardener and I'm using the layer method in my garden and I'm counting on the worms to turn my soil, eat mulch etc. My question is if I put a handful of Epson salt in the hole will it keep my worms from using that area?

Thanks Ronnie

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 3:44PM
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tomatogreenthumb(6 WV)

I have found that epsom salt works best when dissolved in the Miracle Grow solution I use to initially water in my plants.
A little salt, pepper and sugar does wonders for the beneficial bugs. Or just mix in all water soluble goodies with manure tea for the second watering.
Oh, just kidding about the salt and pepper.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 5:39PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

...if I put a handful of Epson salt in the hole will it keep my worms from using that area?

It has never bothered my worms. ;)

But don't just dump it in the hole. Mix it in the soil well.

Dave

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 6:50PM
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northernmich(5)

Nice method...thanks for sharing Earl

what do I do with this white stuff :)

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 9:05AM
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mawkhawk(Metro Detroit, MI/ Z6)

NM, wow, you are really up there! How long is your growing season?

I did use some elements of Earl's method this past summer with great success. I dug each hole wider and deeper and mixed in about triple the amount of compost and manure. I had one of my best years ever.

However, who knows if it was also weather related or something else that I may have done. All I know is that I changed something and got a lot of tomatoes....

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 9:17AM
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northernmich(5)

Bout this long :)

Our season up here was about a month longer...I had no surprise frost in the spring. A distance of 15 miles made differences in weather this past year....we had enough rain and a very late frost.

some brandwines:

My favorite sandwich tomato were these Mr. Stripeys


Here's a little one :)

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 1:24PM
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tomakers(SE MA Zone 5/6 or ?)

Just to note that you don't have to have raised beds to benefit from using "EarlÂs Hole Method of Growing Tomatoes". I have been doing essentially the same thing for many years in my garden, although I usually put my compost in uncomposted (I bury my garbage in the holes during the winter, deep) and cover it before I plant with about 4-6" of garden soil. I also ALWAYS plant EVERYTHING in a slight depression to aid in watering, so I have holes instead of hills.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 5:10AM
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tom8olvr(Z5 MA)

I love this thread because it proves that there is not right or wrong way of gardening! :)

Thanks!

Tom-

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 8:21AM
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quercus_macrocarpa(5b)

What about cat manure?

    Bookmark   December 9, 2007 at 9:54PM
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tomatod(7-8)

You would need a lot of cats.

Don

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 3:11AM
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shelbyguy(z5 IL)

If peat wasn't renewable, the Scotch distilleries would have used it all up about 200 years ago.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 1:30PM
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quercus_macrocarpa(5b)

Ever noticed how much just one little cat puts out?

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 2:20PM
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HoosierCheroKee(IN6)

Yes peat bogs are nenewable, but not at a sustainable rate. It takes thousands of years for the sphagnum moss harvested every day to be replaced by natural processes. Great care must be taken not to drain the entire bog or trample the living organisms while hauling out while harvesting from one area within the bog. Only by extreme conservation can the peat bogs continue to yield what the market demands without depleting the resource beyond its ability to recoup.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 7:41PM
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sneezer2(5)

I'm staying away from peatmoss now. I use coir which is cheaper or about the same cost
and really holds water, I think better. Walmart won't have it but you can search the net
for supplies or try a business that caters to htdroponics. It comes
in bricks that really expand when moistened.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 10:25PM
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seedboy

What about cat manure?

Only if they're free-range cats raised on albacore tuna. ; )

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 12:48AM
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earl(SW Ohio 5-6)

If it will help worms thrive, put it in the hole; or close by.
Earl

    Bookmark   February 15, 2008 at 7:06PM
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tbt3(z9 FL)

Are there any other useful ingredients that folks add? I am going to try it this year. I'm definately in with the Epsom salts and bone meal. I always add compost to whatever I plant (I make my own from grass, leaves, and table scraps). Earl, why do you add composted manure and composted peat? Once they are composted, aren't they similar. I went looking for the manure and all I could find was composted manure/humus mix. Could I replace with only that? Has anyone you tried the cock-a-doodle-doo chicken manure product?

Looking forward to some whoppers,
TBT

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 11:53AM
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dave1mn2(5b-6a)

Thank you Earl!

I'll be using the hole method this yr.

I'm expanding quite a bit. Last yr. 14 plants, this yr. 40ish.

Since a good number of those will be in new ground, the hole method makes wonderful sense as a way to get prime soil conditions where you need it in one yr. for less $$ than what it would take to upgrade the entire garden site and as pointed out, less weeding.

I'm wondering if one used a 4' plant spacing with a 4' row spacing and next yr. you put the holes between the previous, would it be enough to protect agaisnt nematodes n such? Sort've a quasi rotation?
The yr. after scooch the row over 2' and start again. Of course you couldn't till it but you shouldn't need to. After 4 yrs, you're out of rotation spots but you'd have a very nice site for the rest of the vegies.

Can't say I have those problems cause family tradition requires a 3 yr. crop rotation cycle but with such an expansion, I'm thinkin I need to make the space stretch as far as possible. I'm no soil scientist. I don't even play one on TV. More of a "Good enough for Grampa, good enough for me" kinda thing.

P.S. At another site, yrs ago, I tried something from an OG mag. It was billed as an old french technique. Dug out a small patch, maybe 10' by 16' about 2.5' deep, filled to top with oak leaves, probably some horse manure, then put the soil back in. It was a bear to till for two seasons but after that it was an amazingly productive site. If I was that age again ...

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 12:45PM
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wyndell

I'm using this method for a few of my plants in the ground. I am curious though, what do you do next year? Use the same hole and throw away the stuff in there? Amend the hole?

Thanks

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 3:32PM
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jel7

I see Earl's Hole Method as a guide line for what may be needed in soil.

There is no say to know what to add if you don't know what's needed and the only way to find out what's needed is to take a sample and mail it to your county extension service for a complete test.

Example: Earl's Method call for Epson Salts which elevates Magnesium in the soil. Your soil may already be high in Magnesium. This is one of the components of a complete soil test.

Earl's Method call for bone meal and this adds Phophorus, same as above.

Soil tests also give a fertilizer recommendation.

The PH is tested and a recommendation for lime or aluminium sulfate is included.

Soil test cost about $7.00 per sample.

Good luck.

John

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 4:55PM
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code_1_corey(8b)

For water retention I use Polymer Water Gels/Crystals. They continuosly absorb and release water until they naturaly break down in the soil after 7 years. So I just add every thing else Earl's mentioned, minus the Peat + Organic Compost.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 2:16AM
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geeboss(7)

Time to dig for the coming spring plantings. Superbowl and digging what more could a man ask for?

northernmich how was the snow this year?

George

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 7:12PM
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marymilkweed(z9 Orlando FL)

Great thread, full of useful information for all of us newbies to growing tomatoes, so bumping it up!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 8:19AM
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jbann23(6 RI)

Indeed a great thread. Earl's method used here last year and the results were exceptional. Had one control plant (non-Earl's) and it didn't come close to the production. This year that soil is black and possibly won't need so much attention. Worms everywhere too.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 10:35AM
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sprager(Z5 KCMO)

Bump

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 10:33PM
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roselane(5b/6a Kansas)

Bump. It's tomato planting time in the midwest and I'm thinking someone will find this helpful. I know this method really helped to increase my production.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 9:27PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

bump

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 7:37PM
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sio2rocks(7a)

Bump

Awesome tomato cultivation method. A must read for people cursed with poor soils.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 12:10AM
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harveyhorses(7 Midlothian Va)

Really enjoying this thread, but I have a question. If you add all that every year to raised beds, aren't the beds overflowing? Where does all the dirt go?
I am just starting my seeds today.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 7:54AM
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homegardenpa

"Really enjoying this thread, but I have a question. If you add all that every year to raised beds, aren't the beds overflowing? Where does all the dirt go?"

This is part of the reason I don't do raised beds, I just make mounded rows. I don't do Earl's method (though it sounds really good), but you'll run into the same issues on any regime that requires you to add amendments annually. Typically, the organic matter breaks down significantly, but over time you'll be building up more and more soil. I set my rows pretty far apart and the more soil I get, over time, makes my mounds taller and a bit wider.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 12:20PM
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capoman(5a)

Wow, that's a lot of cost and work. I have very well drained but nutrient poor sandy soil. I have gotten huge harvests with much less cost and work by composting all my leaves and grass with added ash from the firepit, and amending the soil in a bed with it, then mulching with a combination of compost and wood chips. On the older beds that I have been doing this for a few years, usually all I have to do is rake in last year's mulch/compost mixture and all is good. The only thing I usually add is some epsom salts.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 4:03PM
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jeep2765

I know I am years late on this post but just found it I do something similar to Earl and it works I plant a cover crop of winter rye in the fall and in the spring till it in along with about 40 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilzer this is for a 25feet by 40feet garden. I cover entire garden in black 6 mil plastic and bury edges with dirt, Plant my tomatoes 3feet apart in rows 4ffet a part . I dig a hole about 10 inches or so and in each hole I put 2 aspirin 1 cup of kelp meal, 1 cup bone meal, 1/4 cup Tomatoes Alive Plus and 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt put some dirt over all that and bury plants up to first set of leaves. I plant mostly Big Beef tomatoes with a few celebity.Total of 100 plants I get big plants with big yields of tomatoes. I also use Concrete wire cages . Gardening is work but I love watching things grow. I do not know if this will wiork for you but I have been doing it this way for over 25 years. my soil ph is 6.5 to 6.7

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 11:37AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Jeep: Do you sell your tomatoes? I think your method is interesting enough that it would be worthy of its own thread. There are only a couple of questions I have. I wonder how you avoid compacting the ground growing in a 25-foot-wide garden? Have you never had problems with verticillium or fusarium using the same ground for tomatoes for so many years? Your methods remind me of the kinds of gardens I grew up with, and I am no spring chicken. Gardening "wisdom" has changed over the years, but I think all of us could learn from 25 years of success. I do encourage you to start your own thread.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 1:51PM
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jeep2765

Hello Ohiofem.
To avoid compacting garden I am continually adding manure and compost and stay out of garden as much as I can. I just added about 2 yards of a sort of green manure from a farmer in Vermont who has a machine that squeezes all the wetness out of itand it is heated to 110 degrees when it comes off the conveyor it is very lite and hot.I also plant winter rye after season.
I have very little vericillium orfusiarm wilt as I keeep bottom branches cut off and spray with Soap Shield with 3 aspirin added per 2 gallon spraycontainer every 2 weeks www.plantea.com/plant-aspirin.htm plus 2 under each tomato
It works so I do not question why.I also plant corn in same place but till in all the stalks and plant to winter rye. I have planted Bodacious for 30 years but have stated last 3 years growing MIRAI which is excellent.I have over 400 garlic in about 12 inches high. Peppers are the only thing that does not like to be planted in same ground I get these little larve of I think it is called Pepper fly that eats roots of plant so I rotate my peppers.
I am no spring chicken either Iam 68 and gardening is how I relax I have learned over the years some things work and some things do not. I can remember when I was in my early 20's when my tomato garden was just sticks with brown vines hanging from the sticks. 4 years ago we had bad late blight here in NY I mixed up Funginol, Soap shield and Surround and sprayed ever other day with this concoction and only lost about 10 plants out of over 110.
Yes I sold about 15 bushell last year canned 100 quarts and gave away many. Yes I am retired.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 1:58PM
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soonergrandmom

Bump for another Spring.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:44PM
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butchfomby

JUST ADD ROCK DUST AND COMPOST (NO FERTILIZER BUT MAYBE SEAWEED PRODUCTS, KELP ETC...MIX WITH GARDEN SOIL, SAVE MONEY...REW

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 8:54AM
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mary4b(4b WI)

I want to try this (Earl's method)

What's the easiest (and cheapest) way of testing my soil...one of those little kits? Are they accurate enough?

Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 3:48PM
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growneat

Is Earl still around?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 10:00PM
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