Tomatoes cannot withstand frost, so plant seeds indoors and transfer transplants 2-4 weeks after last frost. Plant determinate, or bushy tomato plants 3-4 feet apart and indeterminate, or vine-like tomato plants 5-15 feet apart. Plant seeds 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch in depth. Plant transfers in a large hole with the bottom leaves even with the soil. Tomatoes like a sunny location with a minimum 8 hours of sun per day. Stake or trellis vine-like tomatoes to keep the fruit off of the ground. If tomatoes are allowed to sit on the soil they may cause rot and discoloration. Tomatoes require 1-inch of water per week. There are tomato varieties that can be grown in containers, as well as, greenhouses. For dwarf varieties use pots 6-inches deep and for standard varieties use containers 24-inches deep. If your tomatoes do not ripen it may be due to cool temperatures. For good production feed tomatoes with compost or a slow-acting fertilizer in spring. Lightly feed tomatoes through the growing season.
Pick tomatoes when the fruit is firm to the touch and the color is deep. Tomatoes will ripen after being picked, but for best results pick the fruit when ripe. To extend the growing season make sure you keep ripened fruit picked.
- Small fruited tomatoes are usually the size of a large marble or up to about 1-inch in diameter. A few varieties of these are: "Red Cherry", "Yellow Cherry", "Red Pear", "Yellow Pear", "Sweet 100" and "Tiny Tim".
- A few large fruited tomato varieties are: "Early Girl", "Springset","Beef Stake", "Beef Master", "Big Boy", "Big Girl" and "Ponderosa".
- Good varieties for canning or using in tomato sauces or pastes are: "Roma" and "San Marzano".
- Aphids may be present if the foliage curl, pucker and turn yellow. Look for ants because they are attracted to the sticky secretions of aphids. Vigorously wash the plant leaves, including the underside with water in the morning to remove aphid infestations.
- Tomato Hornworms bore holes in the leaves, as well as, the fruit. These are large green caterpillars with white stripes and a horn at the rear. Handpicking them off the plants is the best recommendation to get rid of them.
- Slugs cause large ragged holes in leaves. Look for their slime on leaves. Pick slugs off of plants by hand or put a barrier around the plant like ash or sand.
- Blight shows up as greenish black spots on older leaves. The fruit will have a large dark spot that is firm to the touch. A copper based fungicide should help get rid of blight.
- Bacterial Wilt causes plants to wilt and rapidly die. The plants won't show any signs of yellowing or spotting. Frusarium Wilt will cause plants to yellow spreading from the base of the plant up. You need to remove the infected plants and destroy them because both types of wilt cannot be cured. Keeping areas around plants clean helps prevent wilt.
Tomatoes are wonderful to cook with because they can be used in so many different ways.
Here are a few recipes to use for your garden fresh tomatoes.
Fresh Tomato Recipes:
A wonderful way to keep tomatoes to use year round is to can them. Here are some recipes with canned tomatoes.
- Excellent source of vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, C, E and K