Growing tomatoes

Larry G. Field
Thursday, July 25, 2019
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Tomatoes are another of the absolute important crops; along with potatoes, corn and cucumbers. Tomatoes, partially due to their importance, come in many varieties, sizes and colors. I would suggest that one make choices based on production, food value and timing (early varieties) and shy away from the “frills” like colors and shapes.

There are many small, “mini” and “cherry” varieties. Most tomatoes produce well regardless of size. The tiny varieties tend toward novelties. We used to grow the Sweet 100. It is a great cherry, one that we stayed with, but other newer hybrids/varieties may be better. We no longer grow tiny tomatoes. If I were to recommend a cherry, I would say to begin with either the Sweet 100 or Yellow Pear, then try other highly recommended varieties in future gardens and compare.

We grow one selection of the next larger sizes, the “golf ball” sizes. We grow the “Fourth of July”, because as the name implies, it produces early, advertised as “ripe by July 4.” We have been growing this variety for at least 10 years and in all cases we have had ripe (4th of July) tomatoes in mid-late June. Through most of my gardening years, tomatoes were about the last veggie to mature, more recently, with the development of earlier producing varieties and water walls, tomatoes are now one of the earliest veggies to mature. Modern marvels!

Each progressively larger class of tomatoes has many to choose from. Read the descriptions and make your choice on what sounds promising to you. The next size group would average nearly hard ball (baseball) size. Of this group, perhaps the most commonly grown are the Early Girl and Roma. They are our choices and our largest crops. You have eaten Romas & Early Girls from stores where they are good but the flavor is poorer than home grown.

Because of the abundance of choices, it is difficult to limit the number of tomatoes one grows. That is why we quit growing the Sweet 100, there are just too many. Tomatoes require a large space. I space 3’ in the row and 6-8’ between rows. We always grow four varieties and sometimes more. That means that we grow at least four tomato plants per season, usually more. Some years we process by canning, if our on-hand supply is sufficient, we skip canning for the season. Our tomato crop is generally as below:

I place a small stick/steak/grower name tag by each bedding plant, logging which type is planted where in case one needs replacement.

We have tried dozens of varieties in nearly all colors and shapes and have settled on the above varieties.


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