Monday, February 23, 2009

Gardening: Planting Tomatoes

Howdy--we are almost to planting season for tomatoes. In my area, you shouldn't plant tomatoes until after March 5th, so check your local gardening zone information to see when a good time is to plant tomatoes in your area. Tomatoes need a night temperature above 32 degrees F and a daytime temperature above 60 degrees F. They are readily killed by a mild frost and a week of cool daytime temperatures, like 55 degrees F, will stunt plants, reducing yields.

I have a few Tomato Tips from my gardening class that I attended the other day and I thought I would share them with you.
  • Its always good to go to a gardening store as opposed to a local chain because you may actually talk to someone who has gardened before at the gardening stores as opposed to the chains. They can typically give you some advice on which variety works well in your area and when to plant.
  • Tomatoes need cages or something to grow up, so be sure to purchase tomato cages. i found the round kind at Wal Mart the other day for less than $3 each, but you can also buy them in the straight kind of cages or other types.
  • You can take a metal bucket and drill holes around the bottom and plant tomatoes in the bottom. The tomatoes will find the holes and grow down instead of up and you don't need a cage if you do this kind of hanging bucket/basket.
  • Birds and other animals will eat holes in your tomatoes when they are ripe and turn red. Some ideas to deter these critters are to pick the tomatoes when they are orange, they will continue to ripen and turn red on your kitchen counter. You can also take red Christmas ball ornaments to red Solo cups and hang them on the cage, the critters will think they are tomatoes and when they discover they are not, they will leave your tomatoes alone when they turn red.
  • If you want to do cherry tomatoes, a hanging basket works well.
  • Tomatoes need wind to pollinate. If you have blossoms, but no fruit is setting, give your plants a good shake.
  • If you keep your plants watered throughout the summer, they will produce again in the Fall. (at least in this part of Texas)

Here's to tomato basil soup, tomato salads, spaghetti sauces....and all the other wonderful things that come from tomatoes!

A few suggestions on varieties...

Sweet 100 is the most popular home garden cherry type tomato. It says that on a large vine, it produces hundreds of sweet, cherry sized tomatoes with very tender skins.

Early Girl is a popular variety among mid-sized fruits and will mature in less than 50 days.

Celebrity, Big Boy, and Better Boy are examples of popular main season varieties.

Roma tomatoes are preferred for making salsa, chili sauce, and other tomato products requiring less time to cook down.

Look for VFN resistant stands for Verticillum wilt, Fusarium wilt, and nematodes. the V and F are common soil-borne fungal diseases.

Most of the above information was learned at my class and also by reading this article at

Good luck!


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