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Growing the Perfect Tomato!

February 20, 2012

Rutgers

There is nothing better than picking a nice ripe tomato from your own garden! Aside from the satisfaction that one gets from growing tomatoes in their own garden, the taste is undeniable.  Imagine slicing a nice ripe tomato into your salad or in between bread with some basil leaves = heaven!  One taste of a home grown tomato and the fruits of your labor will be realized!

If your planting tomatoes for the first time, here are some tips for you to keep in mind.

Tomatoes need plenty of sun. A good rule of thumb is to ensure they get at least 6-10 hours of sun a day.

The best time to plant tomatoes in Zone 6 is the middle of May as tomatoes like a nice warm soil to flourish.  When planting a tomato garden it’s important to plant in a rich, organic, well drained soil. Adding compost, leaf compost, or cow manure is a great way to enrich your garden crop.

 

Determinate vs. Indeterminate – What’s the difference?

In order to first answer this question, one needs to determine what kind of space you want to put your tomatoes in. Determinates have vines that grow to a determined point and stop, making them more compact and bushy (some varieties will even have the name “Bush” in them). They are also an earlier type of tomato and are best suited for small gardens or containers. Indeterminates are more viney, will continue to grow all season long and will eventually need support. They will also do well in containers with a cage or trellis.

Types of tomatoes? What are you looking to achieve from your harvest?

Some gardeners want to grow tomatoes for distinct reasons. Perhaps you just love making salads & sandwiches with them? Others may enjoy a nice meaty tomato to make sauce? While others just love to have a simple picking tomato such as a cherry tomato. Rest assured, there are a number of varieties now for you to choose from.

 

Standard Tomatoes – Nice for slicing
Beefsteaks & Beefmasters
Better Boy
Big Boy
Rutgers
Bee
Early Girl

Plum or Sauce Tomatoes
Roma
Super Marzano

Small fruited – Great for picking off the vine!
Sweet 100’s
Tiny Tim
Red Cherry
Patio

Heirlooms – Seeds that have been passed down generations!
Brandywine
Mortgage Lifter
Mr. Stripey
Oxheart

 

Heirlooms tomatoes are often various colors as well. Yellow, purple, almost white, mixed colors on one tomato, striped and bulb shaped too!

Love tomatoes but the acid is discomforting? No problem, try a yellow tomato, they are very low in acid and provide a great taste no matter what your looking to add them too!

The Nuts & Bolts about Tomato Gardens

You’ve planted your garden, your watering it every morning (never at night as this leads to fungus), flowers are starting to appear, tomatoes are appearing and then… the humid days of summer hit and you’re noticing some things that may look like trouble on your plants.

There are quite a few garden pests that will migrate towards tomato plants. However, if you keep a close eye on your garden there are ways to prevent and cure insect problems in your tomato garden.  The most popular insects on tomato plants are aphids & whitefly.  An easy application of insecticidal soap early in the insects life cycle can control these pests. Don’t want to use a chemical?  Try some lady bugs or praying mantids.. they feed on aphids and whiteflys.

 

There’s a fungus amongst us!

By far the most common fungus on a tomato plant will be “Blossom End Rot”. Symptoms may occur at any stage in the development of the fruit, but, most commonly, are first seen when the fruit is one-third to one-half full size. As the name of the disease implies, symptoms appear only at the blossom end of the fruit. Initially a small, water-soaked spot appears, which enlarges and darkens rapidly as the fruits develop. The spot may enlarge until it covers as much as one third to one-half of the entire fruit surface, or the spot may remain small and superficial. Large lesions soon dry out and become flattened, black, and leathery in appearance and texture.

There really isn’t any commercial product that totally protects or cures this disease. However, you can try to prevent it by following the proper watering guidelines of tomato plants.

-Plant your tomatoes in a well drained soil.
-Avoid watering at night and only water in the morning. Soaker hoses are wonderful for this!
-If your plants are wilted later in the day, only water the plants around the base of the soil avoiding the leaves.
-Keep to a schedule when watering avoiding skipping days or eratic watering.

Watering? How often should one water a tomato plant?
Try to keep to a regimented deep watering schedule (accounting for any long periods of rain) but typically every other day unless very hot then every morning.

 

Pinching out the suckers!

Tomato suckers, or side shoots, are the growth that appears in the crotch between the stem and a branch. If left to grow, they will become another main stem with branches, flowers, fruit and more suckers of their own.

 

What are you waiting for?

Now, are you ready to start your tomato garden?
Imagine this plate before you and being proud that you grew the tomato inside it!

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One Comment
  1. This is my first season with a veggie patch. My tomatoes definitely have end rot I water daily in the morning, is there anything I can do?

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