Over 1.4 million Houstonians garden for a hobby or pastime, and GardenLine is where they listen for advice and information on gardening and landscaping.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning from 6 to 10, GardenLine's Randy Lemmon answers listeners' questions on everything from aphids to zoysias. He's Houston's absolute expert on lawns and gardens, offering help to listeners both with and without "green thumbs."
Randy's a Texas Aggie who truly KNOWS plants and flowers. He explains them with ease and candor, and is as competent a "plant person" as there is. He studies, and he practices. He embraces "new methods" as well as the "old" ways of dealing with problems. Call for Randy's solution for your question ... 713-212-KTRH (5874).
Have you ever noticed how many different vegetable foods are on the market? It's a bit overwhelming for the average gardener, but it really shouldn't be, because almost every one of them works. And that leads to a question I got bombarded with at the most recent GardenLine appearance: what's my favorite tomato or vegetable food?
The answer: whatever I get my hands on, especially if it's organic!
And that's the point of this week's journal entry. It almost doesn't matter what tomato or veggie food you get, as long as it's organically based and you use it consistently. Now, in my opinion, it doesn't have to be 100 percent organic ... just not 100 percent synthetic.
Everyone who has been veggie gardening very long has their own opinion on what works best. Many GardenLine advertising partners have tomato and vegetable foods that work quite well, from Nature's Guide, Medina and Micro Life to Urban Farms, Soil Mender and countless others. As long as you can find an organically based product that has a vegetable/tomato label on it, pick it up and give it a try. Experimentation is a great way to discover what works best for you.
Since it seems like everyone wants to grow tomatoes, it's imperative to understand that they are heavy, heavy feeders. That means they require a lot of nutrients on a consistent basis. The numerical formulas may seem to be all over the place, from a 6-12-6, to a 5-3-4, to a 4-2-3. The fact is that nitrogen — the first number in the ratio — is the most important for nourishing foliage or greening up and growing the plant in its earliest stages. Foods with higher middle numbers — the phosphorous — are important in promoting the growth of flowers and fruit. And the last number — potassium — is essential for building stronger stems and root systems.
So, if you were to take the advice I gave everyone last weekend, pre-plant (or mix into the planting medium) any organic fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content. A good example is Soil Mender's Yum Yum Mix, a 2-1-1 formula. Then, side dress a couple of weeks later and consistently with Soil Mender's Tomato and Vegetable Food — a 2.5-5-5 formula. You could also do supplemental feedings in the flowering stage with a liquid foliar/soil drench such as Medina HastaGro 6-12-6.
In the last two, note that the middle number is higher than the first. But people also pre-plant and side dress with granular fertilizers throughout the season. Remember, it's about finding what works best for you.
Now it just so happens I'll be giving away plenty of free tomato and vegetable food this weekend when we broadcast live from the Cy-Fair Home & Garden Show at the Berry Center, 8877 Barker-Cypress. You should come by and take advantage of the free samples, courtesy of GardenLine and Soil Mender. As in previous years, we will broadcast GardenLine live 6-10 a.m. Saturday. The doors open at 9, and our friends at Soil Mender will be giving away everything from Yum Yum Mix to tomato and vegetable food. Plus, they'll have a product known as Minerals Plus, a micro-nutrients additive for listeners with older, existing beds.
My book, "1001 GardenLine Questions," will be on sale for the first time this year, and with each book purchase we will hook you up with a free product ... maybe a professional surfactant, a general-purpose plant food or something equally helpful.
If you can't make it at 9 a.m., try to get to the 10:30 seminar on the KTRH Green Stage. And after lunch with a few lucky winners from the home show's website, I will be back at the KTRH broadcast table 12:30-2:30 p.m. signing books and giving away more free goodies while supplies last.