One of the favorites of most backyard gardeners is the wonderful tomato. There are so many things that you can make with tomatoes. Tomato sauce, salsa, tomato juice, dehydrated tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, and many more. And we can’t forget my favorite use! As an ingredient in my tomato-basil feta. Or as someone at work call’s it “pizza cheese goodness”
This year for growing my tomatoes I am trying a method that I have seen my father use year after year. He never uses cages or fancy holders to stake up his plants. All he does is stake up a 15 foot piece of old wire fencing and plant his tomatoes every 18 inches or so along the bottom edge. He then ties them up to the fence as they grow. This keeps them off the ground and allows for the tomatoes to grow sideways along the fence. As lower shoots on the plant grow they are cut off so that all the plant energy goes to putting on fruit instead of growing lots of leaves.
As an added boost to my plants I also added one teaspoon of epsom salt to the soil at planting time. Every time I have added it I get a huge boost to the total output of the plant. This years planting is less than I have planted some years. Four San Marzano tomatoes (paste tomatoes for sauce), two Brandywine tomatoes, one early girl tomato, and a multi colored cherry tomato that my sister bought me seeds for at Christmas. The cherry tomato is an heirloom variety so if it tastes good I will save some seeds for it for next year. For those of you on a budget it is really a saver to grow veggies from seeds. A couple of dollors for a pack of seeds instead of the same price for a single plant.
tips for growing tomatoes:
- Bury tomato plants deeper than they come in the pot, all the way up to a few top leaves. Tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems. You can either dig a deeper hole or simply dig a shallow tunnel and lay the plant sideways. It will straighten up and grow toward the sun. Be careful not to drive your pole or cage into the stem.
- Mulch after the ground has had a chance to warm up. Mulching does conserve water and prevents the soil and soil borne diseases from splashing up on the plants, but if you put it down too early it will also shade and therefore cool the soil.
- Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They won’t bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant. But go easy on pruning the rest of the plant. You can thin leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it’s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes.
- Water deeply and regularly while the plants are developing. Irregular watering, (missing a week and trying to make up for it), leads to blossom end rot and cracking. This is very important if you have Roma type tomatoes!!!! Once the fruit begins to ripen, lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars. Don’t withhold water so much that the plants wilt and become stressed or they will drop their blossoms and possibly their fruit.
- Determinate type tomatoes tend to set and ripen their fruit all at one time, (Roma types) making a large quantity available when you’re ready to make sauce. You can get indeterminate type tomatoes (early girl, Willamette, cherry tomatoes) to set fruit earlier by pinching off the tips of the main stems in early summer.
- Plant tomatoes where they will receive at least 10 hours of direct sunlight. The more they get the better they will produce.
- Do not fertilize with a high nitrogen type fertilizer. It will cause lots of leaf growth but very few tomatoes. A good compost will provide most of what the plant needs for the growing season.