2011: Year of the Tomato
The National Garden Bureau has named 2011 The Year of the Tomato. For many gardeners, tomatoes are a staple in their garden each year. These plants are fairly easy to grow and yield a lot of fruit, giving you plenty of tomatoes to make salsa, pasta sauce and slices for your sandwiches throughout the summer.
Tomatoes are typically classified in three ways: fruit shape, days to maturation, and color. Fruit shape also indicates size. From smallest to largest, tomatoes are identified as cherry, plum, standard and beefsteak. Cherry tomatoes are produced in small clusters of round, cherry-like, fruits that are generally smaller than 1 ounce. Plum tomatoes are shaped like plums and are slightly larger than the cherries, weighing between 2 and 6 ounces. Standard tomatoes weigh between 4 and 16 ounces, and are round in shape. Beefsteaks are the largest, typically an oblate shape and weighing up to 2 pounds. Other fruit shapes include the popular grape tomatoes, which are the oval shaped fruit that many tomato-lovers like to snack on.
Tomatoes are also categorized by days to maturation, which means the average amount of time it takes from planting to the first ripe fruit. There are early tomatoes, like Early Girl, that ripen in fewer than 70 days. Mid-season tomatoes take about 70 to 80 days and late tomatoes require over 80 days to maturation.
Finally, tomatoes can be categorized by color. There’s the traditional red that everyone thinks of with tomatoes, but fruit colors range from creamy white to pink, yellow, orange, golden, and lime green.
Tomatoes' growth habits vary depending on the type of tomato. There are some that are more bush like, while others have a climbing habit, growing taller than others. Either way, it is always wise to have a tomato cage or stake on hand to support the plant while it grows.
Gardeners can grow tomatoes two ways: from seed or from a potted plant. Seeds should be started indoors about six weeks before the expected last frost date. When starting from a previously started plant, be sure the last frost has passed. Tomatoes are not fans of the cold, so if the temperatures look like they are going to dip overnight, be sure to cover any plants with a bedsheet to protect them.
Once the cold nights are gone, your tomatoes should grow with ease. They do best in full sun, with lots of room to grow. Many gardeners plant their tomatoes in cages and supports from the start. Also, water tomatoes frequently to establish their roots, and keep the plants well watered throughout the season. As far as fertilizing your plant, tomatoes need phosphorus, nitrogen, potash and other minor elements. Here at Vern Goers Greenhouse, we carry Tomato-Tone from Espoma, which is a great organic fertilizer that will help you get the most out of your tomato plant.
Once you have fruit that are a deep red, yellow or whatever color you chose, the tomato is ready to be harvested. It is best to keep the fruit at room temperature, like on the kitchen counter, rather than in the refrigerator.
Each year, Vern Goers Greenhouse has tomato seeds available toward the end of February and we proudly grow a wide variety of tomatoes that include: Amish Paste, Beefmaster, Beefsteak, Better Boy, Big Beef, Bonny Best, Brandywine, Burpee Big Boy, Celebrity, Champion II, Cherokee Purple, Early Girl, Fantastic, Garden Peach, Golden Jubilee, Health Kick, Jet Star, Lemon Boy, Moby Grape, Mortgage Lifter, Mountain Pride, New Yorker, Patio, Pineapple, Polish Linguisa, Quick Pick, Red Cherry Large, Red Cherry Small, Roma, Rutgers, San Marzano, Small Fry, Supersteak, Supersweet 100, Sweet Chelsea, Thessaloniki, Yellow Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Yellow Plum