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Growing Tomatoes

Starting a Vegetable Garden

There are a great many VARIETIES OF TOMATOES though most are not readily available except as seeds through mail-order. General types of tomatoes include: grape--very small; cherry--small; beefsteak--large slicing tomatoes; roma--medium, long and narrow shaped, for cooking,. Local garden centers should have small plants and six packs of the types popular and appropriate for each area. The local county extension will have information on the types to grow in your area. Most folks will want to grow a medium to large, general purpose variety. Listings of varieties are at

Regional Tomato Varieties
Tomatoes in northern US
Tomatoes in southern US
Tomatoes in Canada
Tomatoes in Australia
Tomatoes in India
Tomatoes in Britain and Ireland
Tomatoes in New Zealand
Tomatoes in Germany
Tomatoes in Italy

Heirloom Tomatoes
Canning Tomatoes
Drying tomatoes
Saving Seeds

MANURE TEA is an organic liquid fertilizer. Make the tea by filling a bucket one-third full of dry cow manure then fill with water. Steep outside for three days. Then pour off the liquid and you have manure tea. Strain it through cheese cloth it you are using it in a sprayer.

MAKE YOUR OWN PLANTING POTS by rolling strips of newspapers around the bottom of a soda can. Cut 7 inch by 18 inch strips. Roll the newspaper strips around the bottom of the can leaving three inches sticking out. As you roll, tuck the loose end around the bottom to make the base of the pot. Tape the end of the strip then slide the roll free and fill with a light potting mix for planting. When the seedling is ready for planting, poke holes around the bottom to make root growth easier.
make planting pots

Bill in Oklahoma says when he was a child, "We planted tomatoes next to the jalape´┐Żo peppers one time and somehow they cross pollinated...The tomatoes were hot and had a different texture and taste."

Bill's Salsa and Dip Recipe

An elderly lady at the produce department, "I need some garlic. I plant it around my tomatoes to keep the bugs off."

 growing tomato

 tomato hornworm

The tomato hornworm is a large voracious caterpillar.

A simple and easily made repellent spray can be made from hot peppers. Mix two teaspoons of cayenne pepper, one quart of water and one teaspoon of dish washing liquid (not laundry detergent). Put solution in a properly labeled spray bottle. You can also use jalapeno peppers. Two peppers blended in a quart of water, boil for 10 minutes and strain when cool. Then add one teaspoon of dish washing liquid. Test on one plant first. Reapply after a heavy rain. Wash fruit well before using. A more detailed discussion of NATURAL INSECT CONTROLS are at:

TOMATO DISEASE problems are shown at: tomato problem solver

In June 2008, many grocer had to pull tomatoes from the shelves because of a salmonella scare. Growing your own can insure their safety.
tomato vine

Written by Joseph Cash

  Growing Tomatoes-- Most people who are growing a limited number of tomatoes prefer to buy them as six packs or small pots at planting time.

 Purchase plants when the danger of frost is passed. Choose plants that are well formed, undamaged and have dark green foliage. Five or six inches tall is the best size to plant. Larger plants are more likely to suffer from transplant shock. If you use tobacco, do not touch tomato plants until you wash your hands, since tobacco and tomato are related plants and tobacco mosaic disease can be transmitted to tomatoes.

 You can get a quick start by cultivating the bed before planting time. Cover the bare soil with clear plastic and the sun will warm the soil. Cut holes to plant or completely remove the plastic. Remove all plastic before the weather turns hot.

 To make mini-greenhouses for each plant, cut the bottoms off large clear plastic bottles and carefully place the bottle over the plant so that the leaves do not touch the bottle. Bury the edges so the bottle will not blow away. You will need to remove the bottle caps on sunny days so that the plants do not get too hot. If the temperature approaches freezing, put the caps on, pull dirt or mulch around the mini-greenhouse or even cover completely with an old blanket or a cardboard box. Tomatoes will be damaged by any freeze. This can allow you to start the growing season a couple of weeks early.

 If you want to spread out your production, plant part of your tomato patch each month until mid-July. If convenient, transplant the tomatoes in the evening, on cloudy days or just before a rain shower. This will reduce transplant shock. Plants that are in shock stop growing, the older leaves turn yellow or brown, and the plant may wilt especially in the afternoon. Keep the plant well watered and it will likely recover in a couple of weeks and begin growing. Bare-rooted plants will be more easily shocked than ones transplanted with the roots growing in soil. My father used to stick twigs next to the transplants to shade them for a couple of weeks when planting in warmer weather.

 To transplant tomatoes to the garden row, use a garden trowel to make a hole about five inches deep. Carefully, remove the plant from the pot, and add or dig out more dirt so that two sets of leaves are above ground. All lower leaves should be removed. The plant should be planted deeper than it grew in the pot. The buried section of the stem will soon sprout additional roots that will help nourish and anchor the plant.

  Once the plants is situated at the right depth. You can then add water or manure tea to fill the hole and help settle the plant roots and reduce transplant shock. Once the water is absorbed, pull the soil into the hole and firm it around the plant so that there are no air pockets. Leave a shallow bowl-shaped depression around the stem to facilitate watering. Keep them well watered for the first 10 days. By then the plant should have adjusted to its new environment and be ready to begin growing again.

 If you are patient, you can grow tomatoes from seeds. It is usually best to plant them in a seed bed according to the seed packet directions. Many more varieties of vegetables are available as seeds either in stores or ordered from mail order suppliers. Plant tomato seeds half an inch deep one inch apart, firm the soil over them, and do not allow the soil to dry out. Thin half the seedlings when they are two inches tall and transplant to the garden when they are five inches. Use a garden trowel to dig out a plug of soil around the plant roots; this is best done when the soil is moist.

  Starting tomatoes early indoors is possible by planting the seed in small pots in sterile starter soil mixtures or in jiffy pots . Jiffy pots are pots made of compressed peat moss and contain a light growing medium that is ideal for germinating and growing seeds. They are widely available in garden centers in various forms. The starting mixture is sterile to avoid molds and diseases that destroy seedlings.

  To start tomatoes indoors, plant three seeds in each container six to eight weeks before the last freeze date. Water the pots and keep in a warm sunny spot. Warmth from below encourages germination. When the plants reach two inches, thin to one plant per container. Jiffy pots can be planted whole in the garden as they soon rot and the roots, quickly grow through them. It is best to pinch away any of the pot that sticks above ground. Plant firmly in the garden and water.

  To prevent cutworms, cut three inch paper strips and wrap them several times around the stem. Then bury the bottom of the paper one inch in the soil. Cut worms are caterpillars that burrow into the stems of seedlings, killing the plant.

 Plant tomatoes at least four feet apart. Mulching between the plants will hold moisture in the soil and suppress weeds. Do not put mulch within two inches of the stems. Tomato stems are more likely to remain disease free if air flows freely around them. Straw, compost, grass clippings, and wood chips can be used as mulch.

 Most growers place tomato cages over the plants soon after planting, Keeping the plant upright encourages healthier plants and better fruit production. Fruit that touches the soil will soon rot. Alternatives to caging tomatoes include tying them to stout stakes at least four foot tall or planting them by a fence where they can tied for support. Use strips of cloth or old pantyhose to very loosely tie the vines every foot as they grow upwards.

 Weeding is hardly the most glamorous of chores, but it is important to keep the weeds out of the garden. Hoeing is unfortunately necessary. If they are growing right against the tomato plant, you should carefully pull or cut down the weed without disturbing the tomato roots.

 If you are not mulching between rows, you can till the soil with a cultivator. I can remember my father plowing the garden rows with his mule, Ol' Blue.

 Most garden plants can benefit from a light feeding of manure tea or diluted liquid fertilizer sprayed on the plant or poured around its roots. Plants can absorb some nutrients and water through their leaves though, of course, roots absorb most. Feeding a couple of times a month can keep the plant growing and producing fruit.

  You can also put a tablespoon of granular fertilizer in the ground around the plant between six and twelve inches from the plant. Work it in soil just an inch deep. If you are spraying the plants, it is best to do so in the morning. Fertilizer spikes for tomatoes are also available.

 As you watch your vines grow, daily adding leaves, sprouts, blooms, and then fruit, you can take increasing pride in your hard work. --But tiny eyes are watching too!

 caterpillars and grasshoppers, aphids and stink bugs; they all are out for a meal. My father's solution would have been a good application of Sevin dust-- a product(or its descendant) that is still available. Some people prefer malathion in liquid form sprayed on plants. But other, more environmentally friendly options exist.

 Organic pest controls are numerous and varied. You can start with planting varieties that are disease and bug resistant. Having healthy plants reduces disease and can even reduce a plant's vulnerability to bugs. Keeping the garden free of weeds and trash give pests fewer places to hide and multiply. Some mulches such as cedar and eucalyptus bark repel insects.

 The simplest way to protect a plant is simply to pick off feeding insects and dispose of them. You may want to use gloves. Many bugs hide underneath the leaves and some come out to feed at night. To be effective eggs will have to be removed as well. Caterpillar and other slow moving insects are usually grazing on the plant.

 Quickly moving insects are usually predators and are eating the destructive bugs, consider them allies. Other bug predators include spiders, birds, toads, preying mantis, lady bugs. Butterflies, moths and bees pollinate the flowers, without them there may not be any tomatoes.

  BT, Bacillus thuringiensis, is a powder containing a bacteria that is sprinkled on leaves; any bug that eats it will die.

 Another way to remove troublesome bugs is to spray the plant with a strong stream of water blasting them off. Many won't return and you can repeat as needed.

 Dealing with a diseased tomato plant can be a challenge. The easiest way to deal with the problem is to cut out the diseased portion of the plant or remove the vine entirely. Wash your hands afterwards so that you don't spread infection to other plants.

  A number of tomato varieties have been bred to be resistant. If the problem is persistent and serious, plant your tomatoes elsewhere. Some conditions such as cracking are really the result of irregular watering or changes in the weather. Expecting every plant and every tomato fruit to be perfect is simply unrealistic.

 Heat is another problem for tomatoes. When the daily maximum temperature exceeds 95 degrees F for a couple of weeks, tomato plants drop their blooms rather than developing fruit. However, when temperatures moderate the blooms and fruit production will resume. Tomato blossom set sprays are suppose to keep the vine from dropping its flowers, but not everyone thinks they are effective.

  You can try hand pollination by removing a few mature flowers and lightly rubbing the yellow powdery pollen on the center of the remaining flowers. You can also use a small artist's brush to transfer pollen.

  The fertilized flowers will develop a green swelling at the base as the flower withers. The immature tomato will grow and develop slowly, taking up to three or four weeks to reach full size. If you want fruit of maximum size, don't let too many fruit develop on the vine at the same time. Also pluck off any that are malformed or looked diseased.

  The color of the fruit gradually changes as the fruit ripens, from dark green, light green, yellow, light red, and then turning dark red. Once part of the fruit turns red, it will continue to ripen even if picked. Some people leave it on the vine to ripen completely. However, hanging on the vine it continues to be vulnerable to insects and other hungry creatures. If it is picked half-ripe, store it where it can get air and light so that it will continue to ripen. Storing it in the refrigerator will slow down ripening but cause a loss in taste. Eat when it is fully red before it becomes too soft. The area around the stem attachment is often the first to develop bad spots.

  As the fall tomato crop comes into production, it is time to think of concluding the season. Tomato plants are very sensitive to frost. However, you can save the fruit from an anticipated freeze. Just before the expected frost, pick all the remaining fruit of reasonable size. Let the partially ripe fruit continue to turn red. Wrap the green fruit loosely in newspaper and store in a cool, dry place and check often. Store them with small sections of the vine still attached. If you have a sunny space indoors, cut off larger sections of the tomato plant and set them in a bucket of water with the fruit and leaves sticking out. The fruit will continue to develop, and you can still be eating your tomatoes for another month. Change the water once a week until the vines turn brown.

  Be sure to pull out the dead vines after frost. Compost or discard them to prevent them harboring insects or diseases over the winter months.

  At the height of summer, my father would have half our large back porch covered in ripening tomatoes. It was always a great pleasure for him to offer big bags of tomatoes to relatives, friends, or even casual visitors. It never occurred to him to sell any, "Everyone grows their own," he would say.

Growing Tomatoes (Australia)

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Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer

Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer

This 100% natural and organic fertilizer ensures a healthy start for your vegetables, more abundant crops, and long-lasting benefits for your plants. Its superior blend of fish bone meal, feather meal, kelp meal, alfalfa meal, soft rock phosphate, fish meal, mined potassium sulphate, humic acid, seaweed extract, beneficial soil microbes plus ecto and endo mycorrhizae make this product stand out as a must for healthy tomatoes, herbs and vegetables. And it's pet and people safe!

Heirloom Tomato Pocket Garden

Heirloom Tomato Pocket Garden

Farmers and gardeners of long ago selected the produce they continued to grow on the basis of flavor and texture. Large scale commercial growing, consistency of size and shape and the demand for year-round availability shaped the development of different characteristics in food crops. Now you can grow your own heirloom varieties carefully selected once again for their unique colors, shapes and most importantly delectable flavor and texture. Remember the garden your grandmother used to grow? Your Heirloom Tomato Garden Kit contains seeds for Caspian Pink, Brandywine, Tigerella, Green Zebra, and Big Rainbow Tomatoes, stakes, pencil and growing booklet.


60" Tomato Spiral

Growing your tomatoes in the ground? Get rid of those battered rusted cages and welcome these Tomato Spirals! These quality, zinc coated steel stakes are smaller and easier to use than traditional cages and are reusable year after year. The Tomato Spirals are 60 inches tall. Do also take a look at our PlantKlips!