When learning something new, use all of the resources you possibly can. Even if sometimes you think the information may be repetitive, I promise you that there is always something you didn’t learn the first time. A resource that I love for my family and I is our county cooperative extension office. There is a wealth of information and helpful agents always there for you. My children attend 4-H meetings there and I try to be a part of any classes they are currently offering. Even though I had already planted my tomatoes [thanks to the early growing season in North Carolina], I wanted to make sure I was doing everything right to ensure a fantastic harvest of yummy fruit. Last night was a class I had been eagerly waiting for, simply called ‘Totally Tomatoes’.
I put four tomato plants in my raised beds on April 1st when it seemed the area had seen it’s last frost. Well, Mother Nature had other plans and gave us two more cold nights that threw me into a frenzy of covering my beds and my precious, warm weather loving, tomatoes. Thankfully everything seemed to handle the weather change just fine and we’ve been in the clear for warm weather since.
This year I planted two ‘Better Boy’ plants and two ‘Sweet 100 Cherry’ plants. There was so much I didn’t know about these plants at the time and luckily now that I learned more, I know they were a good choice for me. Both of these varieties are Indeterminate, meaning they will produce fruit throughout the growing season. For all my canning friends out there, a Determinate variety would work great for you since those plants produce their entire crop over a short period of time.
- Plant in an area that receives at least 6 hours of full sun a day.
- Space plants 3 feet apart unless following the square foot method.
- Plant roots deep, leggy plants can be planted in a trench.
- Avoid planting in the space space every year.
- Cage or Stake tomatoes.
- Mulch to conserve moisture and keep down weeds.
Common problems you should watch for in your plants include blossom end rot, fruit cracking, uneven ripening, blossom drop, tomato spotted wilt virus, and insect pests. I prefer to use the least amount of chemicals and spray possible in my gardens, but by selecting disease resistant varieties and spotting problems early on you should end up with healthy plants and a bountiful harvest.
Varieties that are time tested and most reliable are your Celebrity, Better Boy, Big Beef, and most Cherry Tomatoes. Tomatoes in the grocery store are nothing in comparison to a home grown tomato. So even if you haven’t been a fan of tomatoes in the past, I highly recommend planting a couple of your own this year. Maybe you’ll find you love the taste of this fresh off the vine fruit.
For additional reading on growing tomatoes for home use be sure to check out this article by NC State Horticultural Specialist Larry Bass.