tomatoes huge rookie mistake

bluedragon2k9(6a)May 4, 2013

ok I think i have made a huge mistake.I just got done planting around 30 some tomatoe plants yesterday.Then i started reading on here and I belive i have clay soil.The plants are all ready in the ground please tell me what I can do.Can I add wood ash or anything to the top of the soil to help? also I head if I bury fish in between rows it will help.Anyone got any ideas thanks

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

First, no need to panic. Have no idea what all you have been reading but please know that

(1) many gardeners grow tomatoes quite successfully every year in clay soil,

(2) wood ash is only added to alter the pH of soil and its potassium content and without a professional soil test you can't know if either is needed, and

(3) the burying a fish.idea was done by native Indians to provide nitrogen to the plants, not to improve or change soil.

So since your plants are already planted there isn't much you can do to change things now and no changes may even be required.

Start out by telling us what garden zone/location you are in. I note you have been a member for several months and have several posts up but you have never filled out your profile page or included that info in your posts and it is important info to have when talking about tomatoes.

Dave

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 3:30PM
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bluedragon2k9(6a)

i am in ohio zone 6a

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 3:44PM
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lehua49

bd,

How far apart are your plants? Dig a hole in your garden, preferably away from plants, fill the hole with water then when that water has drained away fill the hole a second time and time how long the water drains out and post the time here. There are many different degrees of clay soil. The point is to determine the permeability of your soil and what to do if it drains slowly. Aloha

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 4:24PM
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Daniel_NY(7a)

I would take out the plants, put them in pots, improve the soil and then put them back in the soil. Yes, the plants will be stressed, but that's what I'd do.

Understanding and Improving Clay Soil

Improving Clay Soil

How to improve clay soil

This post was edited by Daniel_NY on Sat, May 4, 13 at 18:52

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 6:46PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I would not dig up the plants. See how they grow and whether or not you really have a problem with the soil. Soil improvement in a space big enough for 30 tomato plants takes time. I would think your biggest threat is frost. It snowed here Friday morning.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 7:05PM
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Daniel_NY(7a)

>See how they grow...

And if they don't grow well, or even worse, they die, there will be NOTHING you can do.

This post was edited by Daniel_NY on Sat, May 4, 13 at 19:38

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 7:37PM
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debby_1(6)

I live in zone 6 with clay soil and our tomatoes do fine. I would not replant.
Debby

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 7:47PM
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Kevinitis(5)

I grew tomatoes in clay soil without amendments and they did fine. Yours may do fine too. As others mentioned, there are a lot of clay soils and some soils that some people think are clay can range from silt loam to silt to clay loam, to actual clay. If you were able to actually dig a hole, you may not have true clay soil at all but maybe silt or clay loam. True clay is very tough to dig in. Good luck.

Kevin

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 8:49PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

And if they don't grow well, or even worse, they die, there will be NOTHING you can do.

Based on the information given - "I have clay soil" - there is no reason to assume they would die. And if they did die the odds of the clay soil being the cause are minimal.

That doesn't mean the soil doesn't need any amending. But that can be done just by mulching the plants with compost this year and then work on it in the fall.

No need to dig up the plants.

Dave

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 9:30PM
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bluedragon2k9(6a)

thanks everyone for you answers so far to answer the question i planted them 2 feet aprt and each row is 3 feet apart

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 10:02PM
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bluedragon2k9(6a)

ok the top layer of my dirt around the first 2-3 feet is a dark brown black color i mean dark as can be once u go down about 3 feet it gets this light orange color is that clay?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 10:11PM
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bluedragon2k9(6a)

i been reading online and your guys explanations and it seems like i might have silty clay loam

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 10:19PM
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speckledhound

I agree that you should be fine. You must be in southeast Ohio if you have orange clay, am I right? Most of my community garden neighbors that have been planting tomatoes for decades plant in clay soil without any problems.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 10:33PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I wish I had 2-3 feet of top soil. I wish I could dig down 3 feet without a pick.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 12:36AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Bluedragon,
Dark topsoil on Orange red below, says that you have amended topsoil. I don't know whether is has been done naturally or by intention (by previous owner ? maybe?).

How clay is clay? If you take a handful of moist soil and squeeze it, then let it go. does it stick like or falls apart ? If the latter then not to worry.
The main drawback of clay soil is the lak of drainagr. what makes plants grow is nutrients, ligh and water.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 2:51AM
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girlbug2(z9/10, Sunset zone 24)

Not to worry bluedragon, I have grown my toms in clay for 13 years now without a hitch. It does help to amend the soil before planting, this is true -- but you can easily top mulch around your plants now without digging them up. I'd add 3 inches of organic composted matter around your toms, the earthworms will steadily incorporate it into the soild for your as the season progresses and it breaks down further. Add a diluted liquid fertilizer (I like fish/kelp emulsions to stay organic, but there are a lot of options) every 3-4 weeks. You should have healthy toms with plenty of fruit.

Next spring (or this fall if you really want a jump on it) after you have cleared all the old debris from your garden, is the time to amend the soil before the new plantings. I improved my clay soil immensely by using the "Lasagna Gardening" method about 10 years ago, and now it is excellent for just about anything I want to plant in it. Look up that book "Lasagna Gardening" on Amazon.com, it is quite the eye-opener, and makes gardening much easier for lazy people like me who hate to weed and till. It is also called sheet composting, which I am sure you could google to get more info.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 11:24AM
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bluedragon2k9(6a)

ok guys i really appreciate all this helpful advice this is a great community.This will be my first garden and I could use all the tips i can get.Now when should when and how often should i fertilize. I only have mircle gro fertilizer that you mix with the water. all purpose water soluble 24-8-16 i think it is

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 4:53PM
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mambooman(5b/6a)

I wouldnt recommend that fertilizer on tomatoes. Too much nitrogen will actually reduce your yields of tomatoes. You would get fantastic looking plants that are very green. But, could substantially reduce the yield of tomatoes.

So, please check your N-P-K. Preferrably, you would want a fertilizer with less N than the others.

The experts here can give you more info on fertilizers than I can.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 9:58AM
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bluedragon2k9(6a)

ok now i got a new problem, it frosted last night so i had to cover them up somehow on some of the bigger plants the tops are broke and hanging down on the tomatoe plants what can I do to save them?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 9:28AM
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mambooman(5b/6a)

Shouldn't be a huge problem. It might set you back a few weeks depending on how much of it broke. But, the plant should regrow. Once it gets warm and they go into growth mode, you may not even notice.

I just posted in another thread how my brother literally broke one of my beefmaster plants 1 or 2 inches above the soil as he was moving it out to harden off. It has already started growing a new stem. I won't use it because I already had extras...but the point is that it should regrow.

So, as long as your covering was successful in protecting from the frost, it should be okay.

Again, depending on the severity of the break, it could set you back a few weeks...but should recover.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 10:55AM
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