Questions? Write Me at

Questions? Write me at fullcirclegardener @ cableone . net.

Plant of the Week: Tomato

The tomato is the most popular eatable member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) which also contains other kitchen garden favorites like pepper, potato and eggplant.  Who exactly introduced the tomato to Europe is debatable but its acceptance by the most Europeans (and the North American colonies) was slow as it was consider unfit for eating along with the other eatable member of the nightshade family.  Today it is a staple in backyard kitchen gardens and even patio/container gardens, and it is no wonder when one compares the flavor of a garden ripened tomato to that of one purchased at the local grocery store.

Garden Delight Cherry & Red Oxheart paste (indeterminates 5+ft tall)

It is important to know that the size and type of the fruit (cherry, slicer, paste) does not correlate with the size of the plant!  Tomato vines can grow to be over 6ft in length (called indeterminate), but breeding has produced many varieties that have a bush (determinate - usually less than 3ft tall) or dwarf (often referred to as 'container' plants) habit.  It is important to select a variety that will not become unmanageable and overgrow the available garden space, so be sure to look for those key words, dwarf, determinate or indeterminate when selecting either seeds or plants.

Tiny Tim (dwarf 1-2ft tall)
Tomatoes are abundant producers when given the right conditions, but the growing season is too short for northern gardeners to expect more than a handful of fruit before frost unless the seeds are started 6-7 weeks prior to the average last frost or purchased from a local garden center.  Plant in full sun with about 2ft spacing between plants.  Don't be afraid to remove a couple of leaves closest to the roots and plant the tomato deep, as the stem will develop roots  Be sure to stake or trellis each plant, especially the indeterminate varieties, to keep the fruit off the ground.  (Note: Typical light weight, garden center 'tomato cages' are not strong enough to support a large tomato plant that is heavily weighted down with fruit.  It is worth the extra money to buy heavy duty cages or make your own from concrete reinforcing wire.)  Tomatoes are susceptible to blossom end rot if they are exposed to extreme moisture fluctuations (especially deprivation).  Mulching the plants after the soil is warm will help maintain an even moisture and reduce the potential for blossom end rot as well as keep fruit off the ground.  Fruit in contact with the soil is more likely to spoil or be attacked by pests such as slugs.

Harvest tomatoes when they are firm and fully colored for best flavor but if there is a chance of frost killing the vine, harvest tomatoes green and let them ripen indoors.

Happy Gardening! :)

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