The most popular garden vegetable crop, tomatoes come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors. Choose determinate varieties for early harvest or cool conditions. Compact varieties are also good choices for containers and planting in flower beds.

Tomatoes are an incredibly versatile food. They are often considered as a vegetable, though ideally they are a citrus fruit. They are a rich source of Vitamin C and help in increasing your immunity. Not just this, tomatoes also provide several other vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, all of which are necessary for good health.

The best part is that they can be eaten either raw, in salads, sandwiches or in vegetables. 

  • Lifecycle: annual
  • Tender annual
  • Ease-of-care: moderately difficult, Requires good soil, even moisture. Very labor intensive if you stake, prune or use plastic mulch and row covers. 
  • Height: 2 to 6 feet
  • Spread: 2 to 6 feet, Staked and pruned plants can be trained to narrow spreads. Plants left to sprawl can spread 6 feet or more. If space is limiting, use smaller determinate varieties.


Growing Information

 

Tomato plants are vines, and they have two basic ways of growing, called determinate and indeterminate.

 

The vines of determinate varieties (sometimes called bush tomatoes) grow only 1 to 3 feet long, and the main stem and side stems produce about three flower clusters each. Once flowers form at the vine tips, the plant stops growing. This means determinate types set fruit over about a two-week period and then stop, which makes them excellent choices for canning.

 

Indeterminate tomatoes have sprawling vines that grow 6 to 20 feet long. Most produce about three flower clusters at every second leaf. They keep growing and producing unless stopped by frost, disease, or lack of nutrients, which means you can keep picking fresh tomatoes the whole season. Pruning is necessary, however, or they will put too much energy into vine production.

  

Sunlight: full sun, Tomatoes need at least 8 hours of direct sun daily.

 

Soil conditions: tolerates acid soil, requires well-drained soil. Prefers well-drained, fertile soil, high in organic matter. Clays and loams produce the highest yields. But lighter soils that drain and warm quickly can produce earlier harvests -- particularly if they are on a slight slope to the south or southeast. Can tolerate slightly acid soils, as low as pH 5.5. But produces best when pH is 6.0 to 6.8. Consistent moisture needed to prevent blossom end rot, but does not tolerate waterlogged soils.

 

Special locations: outdoor containers - Small, determinate or miniature varieties work best. Requires frequent watering.

 

Germination temperature: 60 F to 95 F - Germinates best at 75 F to 90 F. Germinates very slowly at cooler temperatures.

 

Days to emergence: 6 to 12 - About 1 week at 75 F.


Planting

  • If you're planting seeds (versus purchasing transplants), you'll want to start your seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the average last spring frost date. See our post on "Tomatoes From Seed the Easy Way."
  • Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil. For northern regions, is is VERY important that your site receives at least 6 hours of sun. For souther regions, light afternoon shade will help tomatoes survive and thrive.
  • Two weeks before transplanting seedlings outdoors, till soil to about 1 foot and mix in aged manure, compost, or fertilizer.
  • Harden off transplants for a week before moving outdoors.
  • Transplant after last spring frost when the soil is warm. See our Best Planting Dates for Transplants for your region.
  • Establish stakes or cages in the soil at the time of planting. Staking keeps developing fruit off the ground, while caging let’s the plant hold itself upright. Some sort of support system is recommended, but sprawling can also produce fine crops if you have the space, and if the weather cooperates.
  • Plant seedlings two feet apart.
  • Pinch off a few of the lower branches on transplants, and plant the root ball deep enough so that the remaining lowest leaves are just above the surface of the soil.
  • Water well to reduce shock to the roots.

Care

  • Water generously for the first few days.
  • Water well throughout growing season, about 2 inches per week during the summer. Keep watering consistent!
  • Mulch five weeks after transplanting to retain moisture.
  • To help tomatoes through periods of drought, find some flat rocks and place one next to each plant. The rocks pull up water from under the ground and keep it from evaporating into the atmosphere.
  • Fertilize two weeks prior to first picking and again two weeks after first picking.
  • If using stakes, prune plants by pinching off suckers so that only a couple stems are growing per stake.
  • Practice crop rotation from year to year to prevent diseases that may have over wintered.

Harvest & Storage

  • Leave your tomatoes on the vine as long as possible. If any fall off before they appear ripe, place them in a paper bag with the stem up and store them in a cool, dark place.
  • Never place tomatoes on a sunny windowsill to ripen; they may rot before they are ripe!
  • The perfect tomato for picking will be firm and very red in color, regardless of size, with perhaps some yellow remaining around the stem. A ripe tomato will be only slightly soft.
  • If your tomato plant still has fruit when the first hard frost threatens, pull up the entire plant and hang it upside down in the basement or garage. Pick tomatoes as they redden.
  • Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes. Doing so spoils the flavor and texture that make up that garden tomato taste.
  • To freeze, core fresh unblemished tomatoes and place them whole in freezer bags or containers. Seal, label, and freeze. The skins will slip off when they defrost.


Special Notes

 

Uses:

Many standard cultivars are adapted for a variety of uses, including slicing, canning, and salads. The large, meaty fruits of beefsteak tomatoes are especially popular for slicing. Italian or paste tomatoes are favorites for cooking, canning, and juicing. Sweet bite-size tomatoes in a range of colors are very popular for salads or as snacks.

Here are a few health benefits of this wonder fruit.

  • Tomatoes confer protection against high cholesterol, strokes, and heart disease.
  • Tomatoes basically have an anti-ageing affect on our body as they contain antioxidant lycopene which is easily absorbed by our body thereby leaving you with a healthy skin and hair.
  • Since tomatoes are a rich source of antioxidants such as vitamin C and Vitamin A, these vitamins help in preventing DNA damage from free radicals.
  • The vitamin K and calcium present in tomatoes help in building strong bones.
  • Due to the presence of Lycopene, they are a natural source of fighting against several cancers, including prostate, cervical, stomach, colon, rectal, prostate and ovarian cancer.
  • Tomatoes help in keeping blood sugar in balance.
  • Consuming tomatoes can improve your vision.
  • Ease a headache by drinking tomato juice blended with fresh basil.

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Tomato Marglobe - Seeds

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