Tomato


QUICK REFERENCE PLANTING GUIDE

1. Light/Sun Exposure - Full to partial sun.

2. USDA Hardiness Zones - An annual that is not winter hardy and will die off at the end of the season. 

3. Planting Distance - 2 to 3 feet apart in ground.  One plant per 16 inch or larger container.

4. Mature Height/Spread - All of our Heirloom Tomato plants are vining by nature and will grow 3 feet tall (or taller) and 3 to 4 feet wide when staked. You will have mature fruit-producing plants within 8 to 9 weeks.

5. Bloom Time - Summer to frost.

6. Planting Instructions - Please note that tomatoes are one of those rare exceptions where planting too deeply is not a problem.  Ideally, you want to plant a tomato at whatever depth is necessary to insure that only 3 - 5 inches of the stem (top of the plant) is above the soil line. Tall tomato plants can be planted on their side (laid down in a trench) with the tops gently bent upward so that 3 - 5 inches are above the soil line.  Refill the hole or trench with soil and firm the soil with your fingers.  Water thoroughly and water as needed until the plants are established.

 

NOTE:  In cooler climates, keep your tomatoes in a sunny location indoors until all danger of frost has passed. 

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

 

Days to maturity are counted from the time tomato plants are set out into the garden until the first appearance of mature fruit.  Mother Nature plays a big part in the fruiting process as cool, cloudy weather will slow expected growth.  Days to maturity can be used to distinguish varieties as:

 

Early - 55 to 65 days after transplanting

Mid-season - 65 to 80 days after transplanting

Late - over 80 days after transplanting

 

Tomatoes need warm temperatures and at least 8 hours of sunlight a day to prevent them from becoming spindly and producing little mature fruit. 

Tomatoes prefer fertile, well-drained soil that has a pH of 5.5 - 6.8 and is rich in organic matter. If the soil stays soggy where you want to plant, build a raised bed to allow for better drainage.

Soil that holds water as evenly as possible is important for tomatoes because uneven water uptake can cause problems including: flower drop, fruit splitting and blossom-end rot.

 

Tomatoes need a lot of water to grow and develop fruit, about 1 to 2 inches of water a week. If this amount is not received as rainfall, supplemental irrigation is necessary. When watering, be sure to soak the soil thoroughly as frequent, light watering will encourage a weak root system. Mulching the plants will help the soil retain moisture. Plants growing in containers may need daily watering.

 

Determinate vs. Indeterminate

 

Determinate tomatoes reach a specific size then stop growing, creating a more compact bush form and producing most of their crop at one time. You can harvest all of the fruit in two to five pickings and then pull up the plants.

 

Indeterminate tomatoes do not stop growing and produce a lot of suckers from the main stem of the plant. They will continue to produce fruit throughout the season until first frost.

 

Harvesting

 

For optimal flavor, tomatoes should be allowed to ripen fully on the vine and harvested before they begin to soften. The red color in tomato fruit does not form when temperatures are above 86°F. Fruit allowed to ripen on the vine may be yellowish orange in extreme summer heat. For this reason, it is advisable to pick tomatoes in the pink stage and allow them to ripen indoors for optimum color development. About 70°F is ideal to ripen tomatoes. Light is not necessary to complete this ripening process. Tomato color and flavor are optimal when average daily temperatures are about 75°F. Temperatures greater than 92°F during ripening reduce fruit flavor, texture and color. Therefore, it is important to have good vine growth, which partially shades the fruit from intense sunlight.

 

Insects

A variety of insects may attack tomatoes, but they can be controlled with a regular spray schedule. The following insects are a few that commonly attack tomatoes.

 

Aphids - Small, pear-shaped insects that congregate on the top growth or undersides of leaves.  Aphids damage tomatoes by sucking plant sap and excreting a sticky substance on the foliage and fruit, making the fruit unattractive. Aphids can be controlled by using insecticidal soaps and keeping weeds removed.

 

Cutworms - Gray, brown or black worms up to 1-1/4 inches long that cut off plants close to the soil surface. They are most destructive early in the season.

 

Flea beetles - Black or brown jumping bugs 1/16 inch long that attack young transplants and leave the foliage full of small holes.

 

Hornworms - Large green worms up to 4 inches long that eat foliage and fruit. Handpick the worms if only a few; sprays can be used for large infestations.

 

Leaf miners - Larvae that make long, slender white tunnels in the leaves.

 

Spider mite - Tiny mites that are barely visible to the naked eye. Spider mites cause many small yellow specks and fine webs. Forceful water sprays, insecticidal soaps or horticultural oil may be used for control.

 

Stalk borer - Creamy-white to light purple larvae that eat tunnels in the stem, causing the plant to wither and die. Remove and destroy weeds where the insect may breed. Locate hole in stem where the borer entered, split stem lengthwise above the hole and remove the borer. Bind the split stem and keep the plant well-watered. Spray to prevent further infestations.

 

Stink bugs - Brown, green or black shield-shaped bugs that give off a foul odor. They suck juices from the plant and cause hard whitish spots just under the skin of the fruit. Sprays are effective.

 

Tomato fruitworm - Green, brown or pink worm that eats holes in fruit and buds. Several applications of spray during June helps to control this insect.

 

Physiological Problems

 

Many of the following disorders are quite common and should be readily recognized. Little can be done for most of them, but the fruit may be eaten if affected portions are removed. These problems are not caused by insects or disease.

 

Blossom End Rot - This condition develops due to moisture shortage when the fruit is forming and some of the cells die due to insufficient calcium. 20 to 30 days later, a dry, leathery depression appears on the blossom side of the fruit. Blossom end rot is the result of a calcium deficiency in the young fruit due to fluctuations in available moisture in the plant. It can occur when the soil is too dry or when the soil is excessively wet which reduces the root system’s capacity to absorb sufficient water. Provide uniform watering, use mulch under and around the plants and do not over fertilize with nitrogen. Protect plants from drying winds.

 

Catfacing - This is when irregular shapes and lines, especially at the top of the tomato, are caused by temperature shifts and incomplete pollination at flowering time. There is nothing you can do about it and the tomato will still taste great.

 

Cracking - Cracking is usually a problem when soil moisture fluctuates. Sudden summer rains or watering after drought may cause fruit cracking. Pick fruits in the pink stage and allow them to ripen indoors. Mulching and regular watering may reduce the problem of cracking. Rainfall and favorable growing conditions after a hot, dry period can cause fruit cracking even on plants that have been thoroughly watered.

 

Flower drop - The problem occurs when night temperatures are lower than about 60°F or above about 70°F or when the day temperature is consistently above about 92°F. Hot drying winds may intensify the problem. When these conditions occur, flowers will drop or fruit will be misshapen. Hormone-type “blossom-set” sprays may reduce spring bloom drop when the weather is cool although “blossom-set” sprays have very little effect during high temperature conditions. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization. The problem usually disappears and fruits set normally after the weather improves.

 

Leaf roll - Curling or rolling of the leaves occurs in hot weather or after cultivation or severe pruning. Older and lower leaves of some tomato varieties may roll and become stiff and leathery. It is not a disease and does not affect fruiting. Keep plants well-watered and do not hoe deeply around plants.

 

Sunscald, poor color - High temperatures hinder the development of good color. Fruits exposed to high temperatures will scald and develop uneven color. Good foliage cover helps prevent sunscald.

 

Chemical Problems

Chemical injury - Drift from 2,4-D herbicide and similar chemicals commonly used on lawns and in fields may cause distorted leaves, twisted stems, dropping of flowers and fruit abnormalities. The drift may originate half a mile or more away. Sprayers that have been used for herbicide and then used for disease and insect control on tomatoes may also be a source of contamination.

Walnut toxicity - Plants growing near black walnut trees may wilt and die. Avoid growing tomatoes within 50 feet of these trees or where they may come into contact with walnut roots.

VARIETIES

'Abraham Lincoln' - A heavy-yielding variety that became the standard of excellence by which tomatoes were judged for decades. The plant produces good yields of extra-large 1 lb. meaty tomatoes. This variety is crack resistant and the fruit is dark red when mature. Excellent for making ketchup, tomato juice, or slicing for sandwiches and salads.  Late season, Indeterminate.

 

'Cherokee Purple' - Believed to have been grown by the Cherokee Indians in Tennessee during the nineteenth century. The fruit is purplish-red fading to green at the stem with a dark red interior.  Late season, Indeterminate.

 

'Mortgage Lifter' - This tomato was developed in the early 1930's by a radiator repairman in Logan, West Virginia. Without any experience in breeding, M.C. "Radiator Charlie" Byles created a tomato that attracted customers from over two hundred miles away. He earned enough money in sales from this one tomato variety to pay off his mortgage in only six years. The plant produces pinkish-red, two to four pound tomatoes that have very few seeds and a mild flavor perfect for tomato sandwiches.  Late season, Indeterminate.

 

'Kellogg Breakfast' - Pale to deep orange beefsteak heirloom tomatoes originally from West Virginia, that are thin-skinned, meaty, have few seeds and a fantastic sweet, tangy flavor. Juice and inside flesh have the same bright orange color as orange juice. Mid-season, Indeterminate.

 

'Pink Oxheart' - Gorgeous heart-shaped fruit that weighs in at 12 oz. and can get much bigger. First introduced in the 1920's, this one has that true old-fashioned tomato taste that many of us remember and long for. 'Pink Oxheart' has a lovely glossy pink color, is crack resistant and performs well in times of drought. Mid-season, Indeterminate.

 

'San Marzano' - A compact and prolific producer of bright-red, slim, 2 to 3 inch, plum-type, fruit over a long season.  Better tasting than Roma. Perfect for making homemade sauces and pastes. Mid-season, Indeterminate.

 

'Yellow Pear' - This is a very old tomato dating back to at least the early 1600's. The vines produce clusters of beautiful, 1-2 inch pear shaped tomatoes in colors ranging from lemon yellow to golden yellow. Flavor is mild to sweet.  Mid-season, Indeterminate.

 

'Aunt Ruby's German Green' - A variety with great beefsteak qualities and average size of about a pound each.  It is a lovely shade of lime green with a slightly pink shade in the center and a flavor that is the perfect blend of sweetness and spice.  Mid-season, Indeterminate.

 

'Big Rainbow' (Aka 'Tri-Color') - Growing singly or in pairs.  A fruity, juicy, rich tri-colored tomato that is dappled red, orange and yellow, inside and out.  Late season, Indeterminate.

 

'German Johnson' - A large, vigorous plant originating in Virginia and North Carolina that produces huge, pink, beefsteak type tomatoes often weighing more than 1-pound. The flavor is excellent. Mid-season, Indeterminate.

 

'Giant Pink Belgium' -Fruit is sweet and very mild and the large fruits are very attractive.  Pink-skinned tomatoes occur as a result of a clear skin over red flesh. (Ordinary red tomatoes have yellow skin over red flesh.)  Late season, Indeterminate.

 

'Brandywine' - One of the most famous of the heirloom tomatoes, this Amish heirloom was introduced in 1885. The large plants have potato leaved foliage and produce 1-2 lb. fruits with deep pink skin and highly flavored red flesh.  Late season, Indeterminate.

 

'Dixie Golden Giant' - Is a beefsteak heirloom variety grown by an Amish family since the early 1930's. It grows on large plants and yields big 1 to 2 pound, clear lemon-yellow fruits that occasionally have a pink blush on the blossom end. The tomatoes are fabulously sweet with a fruity taste and meaty texture.  Mid-season, Indeterminate.

 

'Green Zebra' - Developed in 1985 by tomato breeder Tom Wagner, this is an unusual and exquisite tomato chosen by Alice Waters for her restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California. The 2-inch round fruit ripens to a yellow-gold with dark-green zebra-like stripes. The flesh is lime-emerald in color and has an invigorating lemon-lime flavor. 'Green Zebra' is a great tasting tomato for brightening up salads and other tomato dishes.  Mid-season, Indeterminate.

 

'Kentucky Beefsteak' - Very large deep-orange heirloom beefsteak tomato with very big, unique tasting sweet flavor fruit.  Late season, Indeterminate.

 

'Costoluto Genovese' - An old Italian variety that produces 5 oz., bright-red, flattened globes with heavily scalloped edges. Fruit shape varies from nearly smooth to heavily scalloped and convoluted. Some say that the fruits are ugly with their misshapen forms. The vigorous plants produce firm, juicy fruits weighing up to 7 oz., with a fine, sweet flavor.  Mid-season, Indeterminate.

 

'Sugar Lump' - A sweet, German heirloom cherry tomato that produces heavy yields straight through until frost. Clusters of 6 to12 smooth, deep-red fruits will hang like grapes all over the plant. Each 'Sugar Lump' is about 1/2 -1 inch in diameter. They are perfect for salads or snacking.  Mid-season, Indeterminate.

 

'Yellow Perfection' - Is a rare English heirloom cherry tomato with sweet fruit of luscious lemon yellow. A prolific producer until frost, the fruits are borne in large grape-like clusters and are 1-11/2 inches in diameter. Exceptionally juicy, these thin-skinned round salad tomatoes have an outstanding taste and texture.  Mid-season, Indeterminate.

 

‘Bountiful Harvest Rapunzel’ – Rapunzel puts out long, cascading trusses of bright red cherry tomatoes. Indeterminate. 70 days.

 

‘Super Sauce’ – This new hybrid will produce enough tomatoes to make gallons of sauce from just one plant. Delicious taste. Indeterminate. 70 days.

SOIL PREPARATION

Although these plants will perform well in average garden soils of all types, we recommend having your soil tested periodically by the local County Extension Office.  These tests can determine if the soil needs any amendments to enhance your plants' growth and performance.  See below for our recommended practice to improve your soil without any additional testing:

1.  Spade or till the soil to a depth of 12-18 inches.

2.  To provide nutrients and improve drainage, add organic matter to your soil by mixing in a 2 to 4-inch layer of dehydrated manure, garden compost, shredded leaves, and/or peat moss.

3.  After active growth begins, periodically feed with Cottage Farms' water soluble Carefree Bud-N-Flower Booster for Fruits and Vegetables. Plants in containers need more frequent watering and feeding, especially when in active growth and bloom.

CONTINUING CARE

Water - Your plants require 1-2" of rainfall (or equivalent watering) each week when planted in the ground.  Do not allow plants in containers to dry out.  In a container that is exposed to full sun, water it well at least once every other day, and possibly every day, during periods of intense summer heat.  You may wish to temporarily move containerized plants to an area where they are shielded from the hot summer sun (i.e. in the shade of a tree, on a porch near an overhang).

Mulching - Apply a 2-4 inch layer of shredded bark, compost or other organic mulch around your plants to promote moisture retention, maintain even soil temperatures, and to discourage weed growth.

Weeding - Keep the area around your plants free of weeds. Weeds compete with all plants for food, water and light. Walk around the garden periodically and pull weeds, including the roots, as soon as you see them.

Grooming - Keep suckers to a minimum to maintain a compact plant, allowing energy to go to the fruit instead of to the plant.

Feeding - Feed your plants once every 2-3 weeks during the growing season with a water-soluble fertilizer such as Cottage Farms' Carefree Bud-N-Flower Booster for Fruits and Vegetables.

Winterizing - Tomatoes are not hardy and no winterizing is required.  These plants are annuals and will not survive freezing temperatures.  They should be discarded at the end of the season.

CAUTION: Not all plant material is edible. Though most plants are harmless, some contain toxic substances which can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, or other discomforts. As a general rule, only known food products should be eaten. In case of ingestion, please contact your local poison control center at once and advise them of the plant ingested. Keep out of reach of children.