More Tips From the Master
How do you grow plants as productive as Mark's? Follow this advice.
- Build good soil. Mark's was originally hard clay, but you'd never know it now. Tilling in large amounts of composted pine bark has resulted in soil that's as soft as a baby's tush.
- Give plants room. Mark puts tomatoes 4 feet apart with rows 5 to 6 feet apart. He spaces peppers at about half these distances. "You're much better off using fewer plants and placing them farther apart," he says. This way, they get better light and air circulation, resulting in bigger yields and fewer pest problems.
- Control weeds. Mark puts down a weed barrier, such as landscape fabric, between plants. This lets in water and air but inhibits weeds. He hides the barrier under a more attractive layer of pine straw mulch.
- Grow tomatoes inside sturdy wire cages. "The fruit never gets dirty, and it's easy to pick," he points out.
- Extend the harvest by planting successive crops. Mark's first plants go in on May 15; the second crop is planted in mid- to late-June. He harvests in both summer and fall.
- Spread a handful of gypsum around each plant. This provides calcium without changing the soil's pH.