Tomatoes

Tomatoes
Tomatoes
Tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. There are many advantages to growing your own tomatoes. The tomatoes you grow are much juicier and flavorful and anything you can buy at the store. The skins are usually thinner, and the texture will be much juicier. There are many varieties of tomatoes which you cannot buy at the store. Although many different types of tomatoes are available at farmers markets they still have to have a certain toughness to the skin to survive the picking and shipping to the market.

The requirements to grow tomatoes are very small, you need good garden soil and as much full sun possible. There are two main types of tomatoes determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes grow to a foot and a half to 3 foot tall and stop, and indeterminate tomatoes continues to grow throughout the season. If you wish to grow your tomatoes in a container it is always better to try to find determinate variety. All tomatoes require some sort of staking in order to keep the fruit off the ground.

There are many different types of tomatoes. Some of the common ones are beefsteak, paste, plum, grape, cherry, and the standard tennis ball sized round tomato. Beefsteak tomatoes are great for sandwiches as they are juicy, and one slice covers the whole piece of bread. Paste tomatoes are good for making tomato sauce and tomato paste, as they are thick and have less wateriness, and you don’t have to cook them down for quite as long. Plum, grape, and cherry are all good in salads. Tomatoes come in different colors as well as different shapes and sizes.There are varieties that are green, white, yellow, orange, red, and purple, red and green striped, red and orange striped, when ripe. The yellow, white, and green ones tend to have less acid but also tend to have less flavor.  So when you grow your own you can have a very colorful and flavorful salad, or vegetable tray.

The first thing you need to do when growing tomatoes is to plan out where and how you want to grow them. If you want to grow them in your garden you need good garden soil, it has to be well-drained and have plenty of organic matter. You can usually have it tested by your states agricultural extension for a small fee. Tomatoes prefer full sun but they can get by with half a day of shade, if you have more shade than this in your garden you may want to try to grow them in containers. If you grow them in containers you should purchase a good quality potting soil, or if you’re really into it make your own. You’ll need a rather large pots to grow good-quality tomatoes, a 5 gallon bucket with holes punched in the bottom is a good easy cheap container to grow them in. You can get by with a little bit smaller than this but not too much and any larger they become unwieldy and hard to handle. The other main requirement of growing tomatoes in your garden or containers this to keep them evenly moist but not over watered, but don’t let them dry out. If your plants become dried out, they become very susceptible to blossom end rot.

3,4,6, Pack Pots
3 Pack, 4 Pack, and 6 Pack Seed Starting Pots

Once you decide where you want to grow tomatoes, it’s very easy to grow them from seeds far from transplants. If you start them from seed should start them 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date in your area. They should be planted in a small container like a standard three, four, or six pack (see picture). You should use sterilized seed starting potting soil. The seed should be planted about it ¼ inch deep and I usually plant two per pot to ensure that I get at least one to grow. The pot should be placed in warm water about halfway up the side of the pot and left to soak until the soil is evenly saturated. Once you have them planted, and watered, you want to put them in a warm place, about 70 to 75°F. Once the seeds germinate you need to find a bright sunny place to grow them, either in a south facing window a greenhouse if you’re so lucky or you can use shop lights hung about 1 inch above the plants. Keep the plants watered but not over watered until you put them outside. When the first true leaves appear you can thin the tomatoes to one plant per pot.

When danger of frost has left  your area, your plants can be hardened off. They should be placed in a fairly sheltered area that is semi-shady and doesn’t have too much wind. This allows the stems to thicken up and the plants to toughen up so they can take the outside weather. After you harden off the plants for two or three days you can plant them into your garden area or containers.When you transplant tomatoes they should be planted to the first true leaves, this is unusual as most plants should be planted at the level that they’re growing at but tomatoes will grow roots from their stems. It is always a good idea to put your tomato cages or your stakes in the ground now before the plants get too big so you don’t damage the roots or plants.

Now you have your plants in the garden there are a few things you need to do to insure that they grow well. A good fertilizer for tomatoes or vegetables is a good idea Follow the directions on the package that you have. If you live in an area where you have fungal problems i.e. leaf blights, early blight, late blight etc. it’s a good idea to spray your plants with a fungicidal solution. You can use an organic copper solution or a chemical solution, but if you don’t it can be very disappointing to have your plants grow good, forming to lots of green tomatoes and then shrivel up and die. Other than the fertilizer and possible treatment with fungicide the only other thing you need to do is watch for insect damage these can either be treated organically or by following the directions on treatments that you buy at your local garden center. Most of the time tomatoes do not get bothered by and insects. The only other thing you need to do is to make sure the soil stays moist but not over watered, this insures good growth and helps prevent blossom end rot.

Soon you’ll be ready to harvest your tomatoes. The red, yellow, and orange varieties are always the easiest tell when ripe. The green and white varieties are little more difficult but with experience you can tell by feel.

Now that you’ve grown your own juicy, tasty, wonderful tomatoes it’s time to use them. Tomatoes are one of those vegetables you can use in many  ways.You can eat them fresh in your sandwich, your salads, sliced up on a dish and served as a side dish with your supper. You can cook them into chili’s and spaghetti’s and various other dishes. You can can them, and even in this you have many choices, you can can stewed whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes or you can juice them to make tomato juice, or you cook them down and make tomato sauce and paste, and salsas. The USDA has a guide to give you the safest methods for canning, here is the link to that guide http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/publications_usda.html .

As always if you have any questions that you would like to have answered you can contact Farmer Dave, either by leaving a question on our Blog or going to the Contact Us page.

Now get out there enjoy your tomatoes and remember the work of growing them leads to the enjoyment of eating them.

And as always remember love brings peace and happiness

Farmer Dave.

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