I get asked about growing and caring for tomatoes more than any other fruit or vegetable. It seems that everyone is after that perfect, prize-winning tomato and will stop at nothing to achieve it! Well, the good news is that tomatoes are not too tricky once you learn the basics, and you can have a beautiful tomato crop year after year, once you have the basic knowledge down.
I hope that this information helps to motivate you towards your goal of growing the best tomatoes ever!
Question: What is the difference between heirloom and hybrid tomatoes
Answer: Hybrid tomatoes are just what they sound like, a cross between two or more plants. They are created with a specific purpose in mind like disease resistance, color, or shape. You can’t save seeds from hybrid tomatoes to grow again. Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated, and seeds have been handed down through generations and are at least 50 years old. Perhaps you have tomato seeds from plants that your grandparents grew – these are heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are valued for their unique taste, markings, etc. When you grow an heirloom tomato, it will look exactly like the original plant.
Question: What is the difference between “determinate” and “indeterminate” tomatoes?
Answer: Determinate tomatoes are also known as bush tomatoes and grow to 3-4 feet and stop growing as soon as fruit sets on the top bud. The fruit ripens around the same time over a 4-6 week period. These types of tomatoes require minimal support and do well in containers. Indeterminate tomatoes grow and produce fruit until they freeze and can reach between 6-12 feet in height and require very sturdy support.
Question: What is the best way to plant a tomato for success?
Answer: No matter how you are planting tomatoes, it is imperative to start with rich soil that has plenty of organic material. Dig a hole that will accommodate the plant, including 3 inches of foliage. New growth will form on the buried stems. Snip off any flowers or buds before planting. Add a shovelful of compost and a mixture of broken eggshells, bone meal, baking soda, and a banana peel to the planting hole. As strange as it may seem, these things help provide tomatoes with just what they need to take off! Cover up your plant well with soil, water, and top with a generous amount of mulch to help retain moisture. Stake if needed.
Question: What are some things I can do to help with the success of my tomato plants?
Answer: Feed your tomatoes when they set fruit with a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus, not nitrogen. If your tomato is planted in a pot, be sure to provide plenty of water, but be careful not to over-water or spill water on the foliage.
Question: What is blossom end rot?
Answer: Tomato plants may appear healthy, but as they ripen, they develop an ugly black patch at the bottom. The black spot may look leathery. Cutting the tomato reveals mealy fruit. This problem happens when plants do not get enough calcium, or the pH is too low for the plant to absorb any calcium that might be available. To prevent this from happening, be sure that your soil pH is around 6.5. Give your tomato plant extra love during hot and dry spells, which can put extra stress on the plant, exacerbating blossom end rot. Be sure to add plenty of crushed eggshells to your plantain hole to help avoid this nutritional deficiency problem.
Question: Help, my tomatoes have aphids, what can I do?
Answer: If you find clusters of tiny white insects on the stems or new growth of your tomato plants, it is probably an aphid party. While a few aphids will not cause big issues, large infestations can kill plants. As soon as you see aphids, it is good to respond by knocking them off with your finger and crushing them. Pinch off foliage where aphids are dense and discard these plants into the garbage. If you are still having issues after doing this, try using some natural or organic spray in the late evening.
Question: When should I harvest my tomatoes?
Answer: Harvest tomatoes when the fruit is well colored and soft, but not overly mushy. You can pick tomatoes as soon as they start to color and allow them to fully ripen indoors. Tomatoes are generally ready to harvest about 6 weeks after they blossom.