Thannisch has 500 tomatoes

CARY SIMS
Ag News

While most spring gardens have long since been given over to weeds or burned up from heat and lack of rainfall, there is one that is still going strong.  After I visited this gardener last week, the count was at precisely 512.  Most astounding is that this was from five plants, and many more are to come.
Many long-time residents are familiar with Dr. George Thannisch.  Dr. Thannisch retired as a pediatrician in 1990s after treating children for years in East Texas.
Thannisch’ tomato of choice is the Celebrity variety.  For the past several years, Celebrity tomatoes are the only ones he plants.  “When you slice them, they fit a hamburger perfectly,” he says.
His technique lies first with the choice of a tremendous soil.  Over the years, he has used compost from his own farm, mushroom manure, and, of late, Miracle Grow potting soil.  The growing medium is placed in a raised bed that is three feet tall and about two feet wide.  Using a bed with that height and width makes it incredibly easy to tend to.
He started this season’s tomato crop in early April.  Starting in May he sprays the plants every two weeks with a foliar-fed fertilizer call Spray N Grow.  It has a 6-11-5 analysis and contains micronutrients.
Thannisch’ cages are homemade from re-bar and cattle panels.  With the tremendous weight of the mature plants reaching several feet in the air, any store-bought or homemade concrete wire cage just wouldn’t do.
After counting, and picking, tomato number 512.  There are still numerous green tomatoes.  “Numerous” is estimated to be about 50.
Looking ahead, Thannisch has some real goals for those five Celebrity tomato plants.  To re-invigorate the plants to set more blooms, he will pick off the green ones to ripen off the vine and cut them back severely.  Cut them back to where there are only four leaves left.
Such a hard pruning served to renew the plants such that a fresh set of blooms and new foliage will give yet another crop of tomatoes.
Ideally, Thannisch wants cold weather to hold off just long to have fresh picked tomatoes at Thanksgiving.  This past year, he picked all the green tomatoes just before the first cold snap, wrapped them in newspaper and ate the last tomato from the 2012 crop on Feb. 1, 2013.