Tomatoes are America’s
favorite garden vegetable. (Yes, we technically eat the fruit of the tomato plant, but it's
used as a vegetable in eating and cooking and, thus, usually categorized in vegetables.)
This vine plant is fairly easy to grow and
will produce a bumper crop with proper care. Its uses are versatile, however, tomatoes are
susceptible to a range of pests and diseases.
Determinate tomatoes basically grow
to a pre-determined height (non-vining, if you will). Once they set fruit, they
pretty much stop growing.
Indeterminate tomatoes are vining
tomatoes. They continue to grow throughout the season and will produce new shoots
and blossoms. They produce fruits until frost.
Tomatoes can be transplanted outdoors after
the danger of frost has passed. They need at least six hours of sunlight. Daddy
transplanted around Good Friday or waiting until May is a good bet.
Dig a hole that will accommodate two-thirds
of the plant. I watch by Daddy plant his tomatoes on their sides.
Both methods encourage more roots to form. The tomato plant will thank you by
becoming stronger & more productive above ground.
Mix fertilizer or compost in the bottom of
Buy two-thirds of the plant.
Fill the hole with water and then cover with
To Salt or Not to Salt
Many gardeners, including me, apply Epsom
salts around Tomato plants. It makes for a greener and bushier plant; it
enhance production of healthier fruit; and it may help reduce blossom-end rot.
The formula is to add 1 tablespoon Epson
Salt for each foot of height of the tomato plant and mix it into the soil around the base
of the plant. Apply Epsom Salt every 2 weeks or so. Epsom salts is available in drug
and grocery stores.
Why it works: Epsom salts are
magnesium and sulfur. The plant uses them to increase growth and vigor. Epsom salt
does not build up in the soil and is an organic alternative to chemicals.
Deep watering is the key. Tomatoes like
their watering to be consistent - don't let them dry out.
Mulching during the summer will help retain
Here's a trick: Daddy placed flat
rocks next to each plant. He said that the flat rocks pulled water up and made the
tomatoes happy. I planning to put red plastic mulch down.
Once fruit appears, fertilize two weeks
prior to first picking and again two weeks after first picking.
If using stakes, prune plants by pinching
off suckers so that only a couple stems are growing per stake.
Practice crop rotation from year to year to
prevent diseases that may have over wintered.
Pluck Suckers or Not
Leave your tomatoes on the vine as long as
Tomatoes are ripe when they change color.
For best flavor, harvest tomatoes when firm and fully colored. Some cultivars drop their
fruits when they are ripe, just pick these up and use them.
Some advocate putting green fruit ripe in a
paper bag with the stem up and store them in a cool, dark place. Daddy never put them on a
windowsill to ripen. He said that they would rot before they are ripen.
Before the first hard frost, pull up the
plants with fruit and hang the plant by its roots in the garage. Enjoy the fruit as
To preserve the garden-fresh-picked flavor,
do not store them in the refridge. Store at room temperature because cool
temperatures cause them to lose flavor and textures.
It is possible to
freeze raw tomatoes.
They may be frozen with or without their skins. Frozen tomatoes are best used in cooked
foods such as soups, sauces and stews. Sorry can't slice them for a sandwich.
Links to more, in-depth Tomato Growing