Tomatoes – Gardener’s Favorite

The tomato is nearly everyone’s favorite! There are many varieties available for transplanting in the late spring and early summer. By now, however, you should already have fruit beginning to mature.

Now is the time to plan for the rest of the year. During the hot weather (above 92 degrees Farenheit) there are few varieties that will continue to set fruit. Cherry, Porter, Heat Wave and SureFire are your best choices. SureFire makes a good canning tomato.

The varieties above, when transplanted around June 15th will bear fruit in September through October and until freezing weather. If your early varieties have about quit in late July or August, then it is best to remove your old plants and use that space for something else.

In the meantime, there are many things you can do to help your plants get through the summer months.

  1. Water your plants regularly. Try using a soaker hose – this will cut down on diseases and cracking.
  2. Fertilize each plant with 1 tablespoon of 21-0-0 every 2 or three weeks after the first small fruits appear.
  3. Use tomato cages. These cages should be approximately 20″ in diameter and between 3 1/2 and 5 feet tall.
  4. Wrap your cages with a product such as Grow-Web. This will help protect your plants from insects and from wind damage until they mature.
  5. Mulch around your plants. There are many things you can use: straw, grass clippings, home made compost and cotton seed hulls are all good choices. Apply your mulch at least 2″ deep in a 40″ circle around the base of each plant. This protective blanket will conserve moisture during the summer months and will also help prevent disease by keeping soil off of the leaves.
  6. Pinch off leaves on lower 5 or 6 inches of the trunk above the mulch line.

After you have your plants settled in for the summer, you can begin to think about the rest of the year. With your regular varieties, you should have tomatoes all summer – but, what about later? If you transplanted some plants around June 15th you should have some very nice large tomatoes about November 10th (our average freeze date.) Watch for signs of frost or freeze – if you hear reports of possible freezing weather, then it is time to gather your green tomatoes. Store your green tomatoes at room temperature in a dark place or other area with limited light and check them every week for signs of ripening. When a tomato begins to turn pink, put it in a well lighted area to ripen fully. When your tomatoes are fully ripened, store them in the refrigerator and eat them as needed.

With these techniques, it is possible to have tomatoes from your garden for Christmas Dinner!