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Garden Help/HowTo

Tomato Guide

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tomatoes are the most popular home-grown vegetable in the country.

Soil Preparation:

  • Choose a spot that receives 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Till the soil in early spring to eliminate young weeds and improve the soil texture. Add compost material.
  • Add a balanced fertilizer (like 10-10-10) to the soil and mix in.
  • To warm the soil and reduce weeds, add a layer of landscape fabric on top of the soil.
  • A soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is recommended.

Planting:

  • Do not plant tomatoes until after the last frost and night time temperatures stay above 50 F.
  • Dig a large hole for each plant so that the entire root and 50-75% of the stem are buried. This will ensure good root growth since roots can form along the entire stem.
  • Space plants 12 to 24" apart and be sure to label the variety (use the Homegrown Gourmet plant tag) and date planted.
  • Water thoroughly.
  • Stake or cage the plant to give structure to it.

Watering:

  • Tomatoes are deep-rooted so a good deep watering of 1-2" of water weekly is better than a little water each day.
  • Keep soil evenly moist but not soggy.
  • Be careful not to get water on leaves to avoid rot.
  • Tomatoes from plants that have been over-watered are not as flavorful.

Maintenance:

  • Reduce the water levels once fruits begin to ripen. This will cause the plant to concentrate the sugars in the fruit making them more flavorful.
  • Trim all leaves from the bottom foot of the stem once the plant reaches 3 feet to avoid fungus problems. Weekly spraying of compost tea will also help ward off fungus diseases.
  • Be careful not to prune too many leaves as the leaves are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to the tomato.
  • After planting, mulch the ground to help conserve water and prevent soil-borne diseases from splashinig onto the plants.
  • Remove any "suckers" from the joint between 2 branches because they take energy away from the rest of the plant.
  • Pick when the color is even and glossy and texture is between soft and firm.

Supplies Needed:

  • Garden Trowel
  • Garden Hose or Watering Can
  • Potting Soil
  • Shovel
  • Landscape Fabric
  • Gardening Gloves
  • Tomato Plants
  • Fertilizer
  • Compost

Other Information:

Heirloom vs. Hybrid Varieties -

Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated varieties that have been around for a long time. They are popular for their historical interest and their amazing flavor. However, they are more prone to cracking and tend to have a lower disease resistance than the new hybrid varieties.

Season -

Tomatoes are considered either Early, Mid or Late season, depending on how long it takes the fruits to be ready for harvest once planted. Here is the breakdown of the Homegrown Gourmet Tomatoes:

Early (65 days or less) - Celebrity, Early Girl, Grape Red, Lizzano, Sugary

Mid (66 to 79 days) - Amish Paste, Better Boy, Best Bush, Big Beef, Big Boy, Black Krim, Health Kick, Lemon Boy, Patio, Pink Girl, Roma, Roma Golden, Rutgers, Sun Gold, Sweet 100, White Cherry, Whopper

Late (80 or more days) - Arkansas Traveler, Beefmaster, Beefsteak, Brandywine Pink, Brandywine Red, Cherokee Purple, Country Taste, German Johnson, Golden Jubilee, Green Zebra, Mortgage Lifter, Mr. Stripey, Pineapple, San Marzano

Determinate / Indeterminate -

Determinate - Bush-type plant that will produce all fruits at one time and then stop producing. Some varieties require staking.

Indeterminate - These tomatoes require staking due to their vigorous growth. They produce fruits continually throughout the season.

Container Gardening -

All tomatoes will grow well in containers as long as a large enough container is used for the larger fruit.

History -

Native to Central and South America, from Mexico to Peru, the tomato was brought back to Europe by Spanish explorers after the conquest of South America. Easily grown in Mediterranean climates, the tomato was being cultivated in Spain in the 1540s and was a popular food source by the early 1600s. Other European cultures, however, believed the tomato, a member of the Solanum family that included the deadly nightshade plant, to be as poisonous as its botanical cousins. This misconception lasted well into the 1700s and was even carried over to the British American colonies. By the end of the 1700s however, tomatoes were regularly used as food and were even regarded as having medicinal properties, a theory that has resurfaced in recent years as tomatoes have been found to be beneficial to the heart. In addition, tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a natural anti-oxidant that has been found to benefit the prevention of certain types of cancer.

Did You Know...

While, botanically, tomatoes are considered a fruit, they are generally thought of and used as a vegetable since they are more likely to be part of a sauce or salad than eaten whole as a snack or dessert.

The heaviest tomato on record was of the Delicious variety and weighed in at 7 lbs. 12oz. (3.51kg), grown by Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986.



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