How To Grow Tomatoes
Fruit or vegetable, a question we hear far too often? In a way, you can consider a tomato BOTH! Scientifically, a tomato is a fruit, however many people still refer to them as vegetables, usually due to their role in savory cooking, opposed the sweet treats that can be created from fruits. Ever try a tomato milkshake? Nor have I.
Regardless of how you want to classify them, what garden would be complete without a few tomato plants?
I recently read a poll that stated 30% of Americans do not like fresh tomatoes. However, the majority of Americans do like ketchup, marinara sauce, etc. Marinara sauce stores very well, whether you freeze it or store it in jars….and nothing beats sauce made from your own organic tomatoes!
Planting TomatoesTomatoes absolutely LOVE warm weather, something we don't always see here in the northwest. For that reason, many people get a head start by buying starts from a nursery. The only downfall is that you are limited to the nursery's offerings, where planting by seed opens the doors to hundreds of varieties. Planting from seed: If wish to plant from seed, they MUST be started indoors, usually 6 weeks before the last frost. We have had better luck with early varieties, as they do well with a shorter growing season. Planting from starts: Opposed to planting by seed, most people in our area buy starts from a local nursery, or even online. It is definitely less time consuming and you can hand select the best plants available. Look for sturdy, dark green plants...without flowers or yellowing of the leaves. Early flowering of yellow leaves is a sign that the plant has been stressed. Prepare the soil with compost and 1/8 cup of 5-5-5 organic fertilizer mixed in per plant. We try not to over fertilize during the initial stages of growth, it can cut back on your fruit production later on. A good trick for planting tomatoes is to plant them DEEP, only leaving the top couple sets of leaves above ground, pinching off the bottom stems before putting it into the ground. Don't worry, this will not harm the plant, only giving it a stronger root system in the long run. Cover with soil and water well. Remember that tomatoes can become quite top heavy once they start fruiting, so invest in some tomato cages and place them over the plant to give it extra support as it grows. It's best to do this now, trying to put a cage over an established plant is quite tricky, you can easily break off stems and damage the plant.
Caring For TomatoesTomatoes like to have evenly moist soil, but do not like to be overly wet, especially the leaves. This can introduce all sorts of problems and diseases. With that, while you are watering try to water only the base of the plant. When you see the first set of yellow flowers, we mix another 1/4 cup of 5-5-5 organic fertilizer into the soil to give them an extra boost before the fruit starts to set.
Harvesting TomatoesHarvest your tomatoes when they are solid red, yet still firm. Harvest often, even daily if needed. If the end of the growing season is near, you can also harvest tomatoes while they are still green and ripen them indoors. Place your tomatoes in a large paper sack and keep them in a warm place, they should ripen within a week or two.
Tomato DiseasesCutworms, Blight, Blossom-end Rot
Tomatoes VarietiesGardener's Delight, Early Girl, Sweet 100, Sungold