By Lisa Rapalus/Annual & Perennial Buyer
Tomatoes are probably the most popular, diverse, and versatile summer veggie crop. There are countless varieties on the market and endless options for utilizing them in the kitchen fresh, cooked or preserved. Super healthy, tomatoes contain a host of antioxidants including the potent lycopene which supports eye and cardiovascular health and has cancer fighting properties. Whether it’s a cherry, sauce, slicing or beefsteak variety, we have a tomato for everyone!
- Indeterminate: Plants will grow and produce fruit until the first frost. Support!
- Determinate: Plants grow to a compact mature size and then produce one major crop when the top bud sets fruit. Suitable for containers and no support needed.
- Open Pollinated (OP): Produce seeds that will breed true
- Heirloom: Open pollinated varieties more than 50 years in circulation
Tomato Growing Basics
- Sow seeds indoors in Feb / Mar or transplant starts in May / Jun.
- Seeds require soil temperatures >70 °F for germination.
- Harden off starts before transplanting by gradually moving to outdoor temperatures and intense sunlight.
- Mix ample compost into the planting bed and amend with lime to decrease soil acidity which increases calcium absorption, helping to prevent blossom end rot.
- Bury starts deep up to just below the top two sets of leaves.
- Feed regularly with a complete tomato / veggie fertilizer with supplemental calcium.
- Provide support for indeterminate varieties and identify 1-2 central leaders to stake, pinching side shoots to keep the plants under control.
- Avoid fluctuations in soil moisture with mulch and slow deep watering techniques. Too much water while fruit is ripening can cause splitting.
- Watch for signs of blossom end rot and blight as the season progresses. Using a fertilizer with supplemental calcium and adding lime during bed preparation should help or eliminate blossom end rot. A 3-4 year crop rotation plan will greatly reduce problems with blight.
- Blossom End Rot: characterized by a rotten brown spot on the blossom end of the fruit
- Early Blight: caused by an overwintering soil born fungus, signs include concentric dark spots on leaves and sometimes fruit; lower leaves will yellow and drop; plants will under-produce
- Late Blight: unlike early blight, this fungus does not overwinter but is introduced through infected plant material and the spores are carried by wind. This blight occurs later in the season but can often look very similar to early blight at first. Eventually the undersides of the leaves will show white fungal growth. Make sure plants have enough air circulation and avoid overhead watering.
Slow Roasted Tomatoes
This is an excellent method for preserving extra tomatoes at the end of the season. Cut tomatoes in ½, brush cut side with olive oil, and slow roast in oven at 150-200 °F for 6-8 hours. Cool and either freeze whole or puree and freeze for a wonderful tomato base to use year round! Intense flavor!!
Other fun recipe ideas for tomatoes: