Fresh picked tomatoes celebrate everything marvelous about summer. Here are some tips on selecting and growing some summer magic that you can preserve for all year enjoyment.
Heirlooms to Hybrids
Heirloom tomatoes are cherished for their delicious flavors, colors and shapes. Typically heirlooms have tender skins and do not ship well so growing them is the best way to have them. One benefit of choosing heirloom seeds is environmental, choosing these seeds helps protect genetic diversity, thereby supporting a more diverse wildlife system. Because the seeds have often been naturally selected for their good qualities, such as pest or disease resistance, there is a lesser need to use chemical treatments to obtain healthy plants.
Hybrid varieties are produced for their vigor, sturdy skins and disease resistance. Now Gateway grows the "Mighty Mato" organically in our nursery. The "Mighty Matos" are heirloom varieties grafted onto hybrid root stock to produce the best of both fruits. You will find several varieties at Gateway that are very vigorous and prolific and most importantly, delicious!
There is no substitute for good cultural practices, whatever variety you begin with.
- Start with stout plants and select a mix of heirlooms and hybrids for insurance.
- Plant in a sunny garden location or in a container that gets morning into afternoon sun. Morning sun dries the dew and reduces disease problems.
- Tomatoes prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5, so do a simple soil test.
- Rotate tomatoes annually. Be sure to use an area where there were no potatoes, eggplants, peppers or tomatillos in the past season. Plant rotation is the first key to disease defense.
- High quality finished compost like Bumper Crop is the best soil amendment.
- Plant after all danger of frost has passed unless you have a "Wall of Water" or other protection for early planting. Typically this is around May 15th in New Castle County.
- Plant your tomatoes deeply for best rooting.
- Stake your plants or put them in a cage for for best yields and ease of care. Cages can double as a mini-greenhouse should early or late frosts visit us.
- Even moisture and liberal organic fertilizer are a must. If it is not raining regularly, an inch of water per week is the minimum. I suggest using a soaker hose to keep the leaves dry. Regular watering is a requirement.
- Mother Nature has a great deal to do with your success.