What about Brister’s recipe?

You want equal parts of:

  • 8/8/8.

“Triple-8 is an N,P,K fertilizer. I got that from my father. He shied away from 13/13/13 on tomatoes and I got that from him.”

  • Cottonseed meal.
  • Bone meal.

“The bone meal provides a lot of phosphorus, which is essential.”

  • Epson salt.

“Epson salt is good for trying to stop ‘block’ at the bottom of the plant.”

  • Lime.

“Tomato plants must have calcium to produce good fruit.”

  • Cow manure.

“I find the manure and cottonseed meal kind of work together. They hold moisture and are slow-release. The mix doesn’t overwhelm the plant.”

  • Mix the above ingredients in rainwater.

Rainwater is superior because it’s pure, says Brister. “I try to stay away from any chlorine. The plants respond to rainwater much better than what comes out of the faucet. Rainwater and tomatoes just go together.”

  • Dig a hole six inches deep in soil that can drain off excess water.
  • Place a handful of the above mix in the bottom of the hole.
  • Put more rainwater in hole.
  • Plant the tomato plant.

“I prefer Better Boy tomatoes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Better_Boy). I’ve found they handle leaf wilt blight better. That disease can kill your plants overnight. I’ve tried many varieties but the Better Boys are just the best.”

  • Pick tomatoes when they turn yellow on the bottom.
  • If you see that your plants stop growing or leaves turn yellow, insert a Jobe’s tomato stick next to the plant.
  • Use wire cages. Do not stick them.
  • Garden dirt is normally good for two years.

When should you plant?

“Tomatoes don’t like cold nights. When the nighttime temperatures hit the upper 50s or low 60s, get ready. I planted this year’s crop in mid-May.”

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 Additional tips:

  • Do not leave cull tomatoes near your garden. Failure to do so will lead deer, birds and squirrels to your plants.
  • Put hay around the base of the tomatoes in late July. This allows the soil to hold moisture and helps to stop weeds.
  • Don’t give up on your tomato plants.

“I got three distinct crops this year: the bottom crop, the third cluster and the fifth cluster. If you’ll keep watering and fertilizing them throughout the season, you can get three crops. Most folks give up after two crops when the plants start shedding at the bottom. That plant is just trying to breathe. I’ve seen 200 to 300 blooms set within a 24-hour period.”

  • Encourage bumblebee activity.

“You need blooms but you also need bumblebees. Honeybees find it hard to get to a tomato bloom. They come in horizontally and try to hit the yellow on the side of the bloom. They won’t pollinate the bloom.

“A bumblebee comes in and goes up under the bloom where it’s needed. Honeybees are used to coming in from the top onto clover. I keep natural grasses around that bumblebees like.”