to Grow Really Great Tomatoes©
Arlene W. Correll
Of course we all
know that tomatoes were once called “love” apples. However,
did you know that the
tomato was once known as the tomatl or 'cancer apple' since it was
believed to cause disease. Recent studies have shown that tomatoes that
have been heated (as in cooked or canned) contain lycopene, a substance
that has been proven in studies to be effective in preventing particular
|I started my tomato seeds
on the window ledge the other day simply because no one here has been
able to find time this year to put the ends back on the greenhouse.
Many of us have our own favorite way to start our seeds.
Egg cartons, even egg shells, old plastic containers, whatever.
A few years ago I started using a very easy product for me.
picture to the left shows a starter tray similar to the one I use.
This is a 40 plug tray. One
can get 60 plug trays. I
happen to like the 16 plug tray.
plastic tray and quickly the seeds sprout.
Once the sprouts have become big enough, I just take the whole
plug and plant out and put into a 3 or 4 inch pot in the greenhouse.
No greenhouse, just put them where ever you like.
After the plants have become large enough for my satisfaction and
the weather conditions are correct, I then put into the ground.
Anyone and I mean
anyone can grow a tomato. It is about the only plant I
cannot kill off accidentally or on purpose.
Of course “things” happen to my tomatoes, but I always plant
more plants than I need especially since our garden is maintained
organically, I need to leave some for the “critters”.
for those of you who are less “Haphazard” gardeners, here are some
good tips on growing tomatoes.
|I love growing the
heirloom type of tomatoes as pictured here. I
grew many of them last year. I
always intend to save the seeds and never do.
I do find some of them growing in the weirdest places out
of my compost piles the following years.
Of course, I always have a few beefsteak or big boy tomatoes.
What garden would be complete without these favorite old standbys?
use a fish emulsion and seaweed solutions.
I just follow the directions on the packages and containers. But
if you must use a chemical formulation, select one that has a higher
middle and ending number (the P and K in N-P-K). Phosphorus (P) helps
produce flowers which in turn produce fruit, and is vital for root
growth and resistance to disease. Tomatoes
can be grown on many different soil types, but a deep, loamy soil,
well-drained and supplied with organic matter and nutrients is most
suitable. As with most garden vegetables, tomatoes grow best in a
slightly acid soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8.
A shortage of this
element is apparent when the undersides of the leaves have a
reddish-purple tint. K stands for Potassium or potash, and promotes
early growth, stem strength, resistance to cold, high yields, and good
color and flavor. A shortage of potassium would render a stunted plant
with poor root development and little or no fruit. A formulation with
high nitrogen content (the N in N-P-K) will produce lush foliage and few
flowers. Apply a calcium supplement such as boron or crushed egg shells
to avoid blossom end rot. Tomato
End Rot is a tomato that looks great until you turn it over and discover
what looks like the plague on the bottom half of the tomato. I have had
many of those babies. Don't
over-fertilize! Many a tomato plant has died due to neighborhood
rivalry. If you want an edge on the neighbors, try this: Mix your liquid
fertilizer at half the strength, but apply it twice as often.
You will be pleasantly surprised at the results.
This year I am going to grow some
tomatoes in containers on my patio.
70 years old makes it harder and harder to do some of the
gardening chores out in the raised beds, especially when there is no
help to be had.
||Large tomatoes will require support. However, they too can be grown in large containers. I have read of gardeners using an old bra or a sling made of discarded panty hose. Grow HUGE tomatoes from varieties known for huge fruits such as Delicious, Brandywine, Bragger, or T&T Monster; when the flower cluster appears, check it daily for when the flowers become fruits, then remove all but one fruit per cluster. If you're willing to take a huge chance, and are growing just for size and are growing just for size and show, remove all fruits from the plant except one or two. Keep the plant protected from birds and wildlife with a homemade wire cage or a covering designed specifically for keeping birds away.|
|I prefer the tripod method, whether it is using some good solid stakes or the metal cage.||
||One of my favorite tomato plants is the Roma or paste tomato. We eat a lot of pasta in our home and this tomato makes the greatest sauce. We also like them in salads or just eating fresh from the garden. There is nothing like a warm tomato right off the vine. Especially when one has an organic garden, one can eat anything right out there in the field. Carl, like his dad, keeps a little house on a post out in the garden. Inside the door is a salt shaker, just for tomatoes|
I have read that
tomato plants started from seeds indoors have
a tendency to get leggy with very thin stems, even when light is
optimal. Studies have shown that brushing your hand lightly across the
tops of the plants daily will increase the size and strength of the
stems. Try it, what harm
can it do?
it is time to transplant your seedlings,
bury the plant as deeply as possible. Roots will develop all along the
buried stem and help support the weight of the plant as it matures. It
helps to keep putting dirt around the stalk as the plant grows in order
to strengthen it. Should
the plant be really tall and spindly, plant it horizontally. Don’t
worry as the plant will put out root shoots all along the stem.
The stronger the root base, the better your tomato plant will
plants are usually pruned to a single
or double stem and periodically tied loosely to the stake with soft
twine. Pruning is accomplished by removing all the branches or
"suckers" that grow from the leaf axils, leaving only the main
stem or the main stem and one additional branch near the base.
Unsupported and caged tomatoes may be left to branch normally. Staked
and pruned tomatoes produce fewer but larger fruit than caged or
always plant marigolds on the
borders of my tomato beds. They
seem to keep the bugs down.
like to use a lot of mulch to control weeds
etc. However, planting in early spring when the ground has not
thoroughly warmed, hold off on the mulch.
When the soil warms, apply mulch no closer than 1 inch to the
stem, and reapply as needed to keep weeds down, retain moisture, and to
keep the soil cool when the really hot weather arrives. Mulch will also
keep fruits from rotting by not allowing them to touch the ground, and
prevents soil-borne diseases from reaching the lower leaves.
One has to worry about cut worms. A good idea is to use a Dixie cup with the bottom removed, a toilet paper tube cut in half, or a paper towel tube cut into thirds to thwart attacks from cut worms. When planting, slip the tube over the top of the plant (or from the bottom if it fits through more easily) and bury it an inch or more from the soil surface. Cut worms cut the plant at soil level, rendering it useless.
A drip system
is really the best for tomato plants because it gives water to the plant at soil level, not the foliage. Wet foliage
attracts insects and fungus disease. Keep evenly moist; irregular
watering (too much, then too little) can cause fruits to crack. A timer on your watering system helps greatly.
your tomatoes sometimes come all at once.
If you have some that haven't completely ripened, try placing
them in a paper bag with an apple or a banana. The same reaction (a
hormone called ethylene) that causes one bad apple to spoil the whole
bunch will quickly ripen (and over-ripen) tomatoes. Remove the tomatoes
from the bag when they have ripened. Most people know about the bag, but
not about the apple or the banana.
plants grow, flower, and set fruit over the entire growing season.
characteristic to look for when choosing tomato cultivars is disease
resistance. Many cultivar names are followed by one or more letters
indicating resistance to Verticillium wilt (V), Fusarium wilt (F), or
nematodes (N). Disease resistance can be an important consideration,
especially if you have experienced these problems with tomatoes in the
Moreton Hybrid (V), Jet Star (VF), Pik-Red (VF)(D), and Pilgrim (VF)(D).
Heinz 1350 (VF)(D), Better Boy (VFN), Burpee(VF), Roma (VF)(D)(paste
type), Floramerica (VF), Celebrity (VFN)(D), Red Star (VFN), Market
Pride (VF)(D), and Mountain Delight (VF).
Supersonic B (VF), Ramapo (VF), Supersteak (VFN)(D), Mountain Pride
(VF), Beefmaster (VFN).
Orange: Jubilee, Sunray (F),
Lemon Boy (VFN).
Large vine with
small fruit (not suited to
cage or container culture): Small Red Cherry, Large Red Cherry, Red
Pear, Yellow Pear, Small Fry, and Sweet 100.
Dwarf vine with
medium fruit: Patio, Pixie.
Dwarf vine with small fruit: Tiny Tim, Presto, Baxter's Bush Cherry.
If a heavy freeze is on its way, go out
and pick all the tomatoes.
Green tomatoes that have reached about 3/4 of their full size and show
some color will eventually ripen, and smaller, immature green ones can
be pickled or cooked green.
Some people like to pull up the whole tomato plant and hang it upside down in a dark basement room and let the tomatoes ripen gradually. If you try this system, check them regularly to prevent very ripe fruits from falling onto the floor - splaat!
the historical note, tomatoes are
native to Mexico and Central America.
It's not clear how tomatoes came to the U.S.. Thomas Jefferson
grew them in the 1780s and credited one of his neighbors with the
introduction, but Harriott Pinckney Horry recorded a recipe "To
Keep Tomatoes For Winter Use" in 1770. There is a folk legend that
they were introduced by African slaves who came to North America by way
of the Caribbean, and some historians believe that the Portuguese
introduced tomatoes to the West Coast of Africa.
One of my
favorite treats is fried green tomatoes. Here is one of my recipes.
Classic Fried Green
Slice the tomatoes
into 1/4 - 1/2-inch slices. Salt and pepper them to taste. Dip in meal
and fry in hot grease or oil about 3 minutes or until golden on bottom.
Gently turn and fry the other side. Serve as a side dish - delicious
with breakfast! Keep warm in a low 200° to 250° oven if frying in
There are plenty of
ways to coat and fry your tomatoes; use bread crumbs, cracker crumbs,
cornmeal, or flour. Some people dip them in beaten eggs before dredging,
while some just dredge then fry. Salt and pepper them first, and use a
little bacon grease for flavor if you have it.
Green Tomato Sandwich Recipe
For the best Fried Green Tomato sandwiches be sure to use the larger, center slices of the tomatoes, and use the strained bacon grease for frying the green tomatoes. (use only as much as necessary, along with the olive oil.) For the "lettuce" in this BLT, use arugula or any other green you like.
· 8 slices, thick-cut bacon
· 3/4 C all-purpose flour
· 1/4 C stone-ground cornmeal
· Salt to taste
· Black Pepper, freshly ground, to taste
· 1 C milk
· 1/4 C olive oil, plus more if necessary
· 3 or 4 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
· 1/4 C prepared mayonnaise
· 1 T prepared chili sauce
· 8 slices lightly toasted rye bread
· 1 large bunch or 2 small heads of lettuce
Just when you think
have more tomatoes than recipes, you will discover another one, such as
Green Tomato Cake
Preheat oven to 350°.
Cream sugar, shortening, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Sift flour,
salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg into egg mixture. Blend together.
Stir in nuts, raisins and tomatoes.
6 green tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon allspice
6 tart apples, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup currants
1/4 cup vinegar
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy pot. Simmer until thick. Makes about 3 quarts. Freeze mincemeat in one-cup portions.
Tomato Pie Filling
4 quart chopped green tomatoes
3 quart peeled, chopped tart apples
1 pound dark seedless raisins
1 pound white raisins
1/4 cup citron, lemon, or orange
2 cup water
2 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar, 5%
1 cup bottled lemon juice
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
An easy way to solve this problem is to cut small suckers from spring-planted tomatoes and let them grow to full-sized plants. Instead of pinching out most of the suckers on your tomato plants, allow some to grow four or five inches. Then in mid- or late summer, cut the suckers from the plant, remove the lowest set of leaves and place the suckers in a jar of water or moistened sand or vermiculite. This will start the rooting process. Once roots begin to form, plant them in pots or directly in the garden. Firm the soil around the suckers and water them heavily for two or three days.
|These plants will do just as well as
any you could raise from seed or buy at a garden store. Just be sure
they don't have any insect or disease problems or you'll be fighting
them all fall. The plants will give you a nice fall crop of tomatoes,
), free lance writer, award winning artist and avid gardener is
mother of 5 and the grandmother of 8.
For almost 40 years she was an International real estate
consultant and during the last 20 years of her career traveled to many
parts of the world. She
has been a cancer and stroke survivor since 1992.
While working and raising her children she had many hobbies
including being a very serious home-vintner for approximately 14 years
while residing in upstate New York in St. Lawrence County producing
2,000 to 3,000 bottles of wine a year.
She was the president of the St. Lawrence County chapter of the
American Wine Society in Potsdam
"Tread the Earth Lightly" & in the meantime
may your day be filled with...
Peace, Light, and Love,
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