Spring Garden Tips

Tomato

Tomato250px.jpg

Botanical Name

Lycopersicon esculentum

Hardiness

Tender annual

Height

2 to 6 feet

Width

2 to 6 feet

Flowers

Mid summer to frost: yellow

Fruit

Many different sizes, colors, tastes and textures

Light

Full sun

Soil

Moist, well-drained, organic, warm

Planting and Care

Tomatoes germinate best in soil temperatures of 75 F to 90 F.

Sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before transplanting outside. Plant seeds 1/8 inch deep in flats or containers. Harden off before planting outdoors. Set outdoors only after all danger of frost has passed and the nighttime temperatures are consistently above 45 F.

Space transplants 1 to 2 feet apart for determinate varieties.

Indeterminate varieties should be spaced 14 to 20 inches apart when staked and 2 to 3 feet apart when unstaked.

Tomatoes perform better when planted deep or trenched. Place in the ground so that the lowest set of leaves is just above the soil surface. Roots will form from along the buried stem.

Place any plant supports at the time of planting to avoid damaging developing roots.

Mulch the soil around the plants to retain moisture and to suppress weeds.

Tomatoes require adequate, even moisture to flower and fruit properly. Ideally 1 inch of rain a week or supplemental watering may be required to provide consistent moisture.

Extend the season and protect your tomatoes by using floating row covers before plants begin to bloom.

Pinch off suckers that emerge from crotches.

Problems

Aphids, tomato hornworms, verticillium wilt, blossom-end wilt, fusarium wilt, septoria leafspot, whiteflies, Colorado potato beetle, cutworms, flea beetles, catface

Varieties to Consider

Super Sweet 100 - cherry type, resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilt

Aunt Ruby's German Green - heirloom green tomato, green-pink flesh

Lemon Boy - lemon yellow, indeterminate

Green Zebra - heirloom, light green with dark green stripes

Harvesting

Expect tomatoes to be ready for harvest 65-80 days after transplanting.  Cooler weather will slow tomato growth and delay maturity. Keep fully colored tomatoes on the vine an additional 5-8 days for better flavor.

Pick mature green tomatoes when the blossom end is greenish white, or showing color before the plants are killed by frost. Ripen green tomatoes indoors by spreading them out on heavy paper so that the fruits do not touch.  Or wrap each one in newspaper if they have to touch in storage. Store in a 60-to-65 degree Fahrenheit location. They will ripen over several weeks. Speed up the process by moving a few tomatoes to a bright, warm location a few days prior to use.

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