Tomatoes are the favorite food crop of America’s home gardeners. More than 60 million tons of tomatoes are produced per year.
A tomato is a warm loving member of the nightshade family.
It’s not hard to grow tomatoes. Buy a couple plants to add to you home garden. You can even grow tomatoes in containers if you don’t have that much space. Tomatoes thrive in warm conditions and they like water but not too much water.
If you are not growing tomatoes, you are missing out on one of the most enjoyable plants to have in a vegetable garden. Tomatoes are a joy to grow, because if done right, the plants will turn into a beautiful bush with loads of fresh tomatoes that you can enjoy right from the garden.
There are more than 10,000 varieties of tomatoes, ranging from the small marble size cherry tomatoes to the giant Ponderosa that can weigh more than 3 pounds. Tomatoes have been grown as a food since the 16th century, though they have in various times and places been regarded as both poisonous and decorative plants.
In 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the tomato was a “vegetable” and therefore subject to import taxes. The suit was brought by a consortium of growers who wanted it declared a vegetable to protect U.S. crop development and prices.
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Tomatoes come in almost every color of the rainbow. While you will always want to grow lots of red tomatoes, don’t hesitate to tuck in a few that will bear yellow, orange, striped, or even green fruits. Size can vary from bite-size cherries like Sweet 100 to Beefsteaks that weigh in at more than a pound each.
Popular Tomato Varieties
Several tomatoes have been rated for flavor. Here are a few varieties that are consistently voted winners:
- ‘Brandywine’ – Red
- ‘Brandywine OTV’ – Big, red, and juicy
- ‘Caspian Pink’ – Beefsteak-type tomato with pinkish red fruit
- ‘Constoluto Genovese’ – Red ribbed fruit
- ‘Hillbilly’ – Yellow and red streaked fruit
- ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’ – Pinkish red fruit
- Topsy Turvy Tomato Tree – Good for hot-weather
- ‘Carmello’ – FVNT hybrid
- ‘Celebrity’ – VFFTNA hybrid
- ‘Early Girl’ – VFF, early and dependable
- ‘Stupice’ – Good for the Northwest, where fruit set is a problem
- ‘Cherokee Purple’ – Large pink-purple fruit
- ‘Garden Peach’ – Small yellow fruit, slightly fuzzy skin
- ‘Jaune Flamee’ – Small deep orange fruit
- ‘Lemon Boy’ – VFN hybrid with mild yellow fruit
- ‘Paul Robeson’ – Midsize dusky dark red fruit
- ‘Amish Paste’ – Medium-large red
- ‘Margherita’ – VF hybrid
- ‘Speckled Roman’ – Meaty, striped yellow and orange fruit
Cherry and Grape Tomatoes
- ‘Sungold’ – FT hybrid with yellow fruit
- ‘Isis Candy’ – Marbled red-orange fruit
- ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’ – Early red cherry / grape
- ‘Super Sweet 100’ – VF hybrid
- ‘Cupid’ – Fast hybrid red grape
The formula for growing the juiciest, tastiest tomatoes is very simple – regular feeding and watering.
Start tomatoes either by seed planted in the garden on the average date of the last frost, or from transplants set in the garden about a week after the average date of last frost. If you use transplants, either purchase them from a reputable nursery or garden center or start your own indoors six to eight weeks before the planting date.
Plant transplants 18 to 36 inches apart, depending on whether you will stake or cage the plants or let them sprawl.
Rotate your crops. Speaking of disease, you should also try and plant your tomatoes in a spot where tomatoes have not grown the past couple of years.
If that’s impossible, remove as much of the soil as you can and replace it with a mix of half compost and half topsoil—or half garden soil from tomato free areas.
Otherwise, your plants may wilt from a common disease that builds up in soil where tomatoes are frequently planted. If that’s already happening and you’ve already used every possible and/or potential planting plot, try growing in BIG containers (at least 12 to 15 inches across).
Here is a Great tip…..Sprinkle in each hole, a handful of crushed egg shells into each deep hole. WHY? The eggshells provide something that tomatoes thrive on and can’t get enough of: CALCIUM!
The calcium from the egg shells is absorbed up into the roots and into the stems of the tomato plants. If you have yellowing tomato plants, you have a calcium deficiency!
Buy a bunch of eggs, make egg salad sandwiches, top your salads with chopped boiled eggs, and make some delicious deviled eggs! Its’ worth it! NEVER throw away an egg shell if you are a gardener! And when you boil eggs, don’t throw away the water, it’s full of calcium from the egg shells, so let the water cool off and water your tomato plants with it.
Water in the morning and ALWAYS water underneath the tomato plants. Do not use a sprinkler and water from above. Do not get your tomato plant leaves wet; it promotes disease! Depending upon the weather, it is a good idea to water every other morning.
Prune off the side shoots which stay at 45° between the stem and the branch as soon as they appear. They are known as “Suckers”. This way the flower clusters will soon growing into sweet tomatoes.
Tomatoes are susceptible to fungal diseases, whitefly and caterpillars. Depending on what part of the country you live will determine the scope of what will affect your plants. In Canterbury with tomatoes grown in the garden, three major problems are more than likely to be fungus, green looper caterpillar and whitefly.
One of the best remedies to fight off the pests is to plant what are known as “companion plants”. These plants will either attract insects that attack pests that affect tomatoes or they can repel insects that attack tomatoes.
Such plants are basil, beans, carrots, chives, garlic, parsley, marigolds and bay trees. (Of course I prefer Marigolds)
Similarly, add a birdbath, especially in dry summers. Birds don’t really eat tomatoes, but they do like the water that is inside of them. If you ever get holes in the side of your tomatoes, these are from birds trying to suck out the water.
If you add a birdbath to your garden, they will leave your tomatoes alone, and also eat other pests looking to ruin all your hard work.
Tomatoes are ready to pick when their color is even and glossy and texture is soft but resilient. Once the harvest really gets going, you can make it more manageable by picking some fruit a day or two before fully ripe to mature easily in the kitchen. In the summer you will find tomatoes do very well at room temperatures.
When temperatures get below 60 degrees harvest fruits with a good blush of color on their bottoms to ripen in the kitchen and enjoy the remaining green ones in a green tomato pie, pickled green tomatoes, and green tomato and apple relish, or try a recipe for tomato sauce that uses the complimentary flavors of both red and green tomatoes.
Dry some of your cherry tomatoes because they’re the easiest to prepare. Slice them in halves, then put on racks in 140 to 160 degrees oven or food dehydrator for 6-7 hours or until they are leathery. Store them in jars or zip lock bags, in the refrigerator for longest storage.
They make a deliciously low calorie snack all year. To use them in cooking rehydrate them in warm water, or broth and cover them until they plump up. Drain well, then toss into green salads, or to pasta or rice with olives and capers, and blend with olive oil, garlic, and ground black pepper and a pinch of your favorite herbs for a wonderful flavor………….
10 cups chopped seeded,chopped, peeled,tomatoes
5 cups chopped onions
3 1/2 cups chopped green peppers
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet red peppers
1-1/4 cups vinegar
6 jalapeno peppers
3 garlic cloves
3 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients in a large kettle; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 1-3/4 hours or until mixture reaches desired thickness.
Pour hot mixture into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Adjust caps. Process in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes.
For people with a little extra time and soil, homegrown tomatoes can’t be beat.
I found a great article on tomatoes, It teaches you so much about how to grow wonderful tomatoes.
it easy for the tomato plant to grab onto.
Hey— I almost forgot to talk about the newest craze it is Upside Down Tomatoes.
There are two kinds of planters. The Topsy Turvy Planter which is designed to hold a single plant. If you are interested in more than one plant, they have the Topsy Turvy Tomato Tree.
It can hold more than one tomato plant and other herbs and vegetables as well. My aunt tried a Topsy Turvy Planter this summer and it grew very big with lots of tomatoes on it.
The tomato is now so common that one can hardly imagine pizza, burgers, salsa, or french fries without it. While people the world over may argue that tomato is a fruit, yet eat it with vegetables, few disagree that life without the tomato would just not be as delicious.
Some Tips People Do When They Plant Tomatoes……
Kari said: “I put powdered milk in the hole before planting. That way the plants get calcium. The calcium helps prevent the bottom of the tomato from turning black with bottom rot.”
Christa said: “I read that placing a tablespoon of sugar into the hole before placing the plant in the hole is supposed to make them super sweet! I’m going to try it this summer!”
Amanda said: “Water consistently at the same time every day. This way they won’t split and will grow nice and big.”
Laura said: “Coming from a long line of farmers, the best tip I ever heard for backyard growing was planting marigolds at the base of tomatoes… it’s a natural pest repellent!”
Enjoy a bounteous harvest of lush, ripe, juicy tomatoes!
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