Do you know what the most popular garden vegetable grown in the US is?
The tomato tops the list although it’s actually a fruit, not a vegetable.
About 95% of all gardeners’ attempt growing them. And, believe it or not, the tomato seed catalogues are in the mail now. I love to look at them. And, at one time, grew my own little baby tomato plants from seeds. Now, I know I’ve said that I’ve never been the farmer in the family and haven’t been overly successful growing food crops. That doesn’t mean I don’t know or understand the whole planting process. I think I don’t have that inner “farmer glow” recognized by food plants – the glow that encourages fruit and vegetable production. Michael had it.
At one time, we had a huge garden. And, to a point, it was a joint effort - he got the tiller out and tilled the veg garden area. He also took the hoe and made rows (something my non-farmer mind thought were silly – nothing stayed in those neat little rows for heaven sakes). I got to pull out the weeds, rocks, grass, roots and other non-essential things. I also grew the starter plants and when the time was right, put them in the ground. And, other than weeding, as necessary, I was pretty much done. He did all the watering and bug eliminating. His farmer soul spoke to all the plants and we had vegetables.
So, if you want to be one of the 95%, here are a few things to start thinking about now. WHERE. Tomatoes like at least 8 hours of sun. And, that little seedling just might grow into a 5-foot tall bush, so, plan on enough space for however many plants you want. This is a good time to do a first tilling and generally prepare the bed to winter over. We planted our tomatoes directly in the ground, however my sister plants hers in raised beds. Both methods are successful - it all depends on your location and soil. So, pick your place and type, till, add soil, and cover the area with mulch. Done for now.
Then, if you are going to grow from seed – decided Heirloom or Hybrid. Even if you are going to start with commercially grown seedlings – Heirloom or Hybrid.
Heirloom tomatoes are varieties that have been reproduced for generations. They’re true to their type from their own seed. Some heirlooms have production histories spanning hundreds of years. A tomato variety is considered an heirloom if it has been cultivated for at least 3 generations.
Good/Bad: Heirlooms produce lots of seeds (but you can save them for future planting). They are very flavorful. They usually have a long record of producing healthy fruit. They are unique and come in many different shapes and colors (you’re not likely to get the big red tomatoes you see at the grocery store). They take a little longer to mature and produce fruit.
Hybrid tomatoes are a cross between two genetically different tomato varieties. With a hybrid, you get the best qualities of both parents. Commercial growers like them because they are predictable.
Good/Bad: With hybrids, you’ll probably harvest more tomatoes. They are likely to produce regardless of the weather. Their tomatoes tend to be all similar in size and with fewer blemishes. Harvested tomatoes last longer once picked. However, they are not as flavorful as their counterpart.
And by the way, if you have limited garden area, the tomato is a versatile plant that grows well in a container. Most tomato varieties will grow in a container, but dwarf or cherry plants are more suitable as they area smaller plant size. They still need up to eight hours of sun and will require frequent watering (roots dry out faster in a container).
Mint Julep – Heirloom - Plant produces high yields of bi-colored chartreuse green plum/pear shaped tomatoes with bright yellow stripes. They have a pleasant tomato taste with a nice sweet overall flavor.
Black Sea Man - A Russian Heirloom tomato. Produces beautiful tomatoes that
Big Boy hybrid tomato produces perfect, large red fruit. What's kept The fruits weigh in 10 oz. with many reaching 1 lb. or more. Produces all summer long.
Better Boy – A Guinness Book of World Records champion, yielding nearly 350 pounds of tomatoes from a single plant over one season. This is a disease-resistant, flavorful and easy-to-grow tomato.