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Growing Tomatoes and Trouble Shooting Tomato Problems

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Tomatoes - There are Hundreds of Different Tomato Varieties to Grow

Tomatoes - There are Hundreds of Different Tomato Varieties to Grow

Photo Courtesy of the National Garden Bureau

Overview:

Although tomatoes are technically a fruit, they are the poster plant for vegetable gardening. A vine ripened tomato is what every backyard vegetable grower plans for. Once thought to be poisonous, they are now the most popular vegetable to grow and eat. There are literally thousands of varieties, many bearing little resemblance to the round, red orbs we’re used to seeing in the supermarket. From grape-sized to fluted and pear shaped - red, green, purple, yellow, orange and pink - tomatoes defy one single description.

Latin Name:

Lycopersicon esculentum

Common Name:

Tomato

Hardiness Zone:

Grown as an annual.

Exposure:

Full sun.

Size:

Varies greatly with variety, growing conditions and whether the variety is determinate or indeterminate. All tomatoes are vining plants that we generally grow upright and staked. Expect your tomato to get at least 3' tall and some will grow to 8' or more.

Days to Harvest:

Varies greatly and is something to keep in mind when you are choosing which types to grow. Tomatoes are often labeled either “Short Season” or “Long Season”. Gardeners with short growing seasons should look for varieties that mature within 55 - 70 days. Long season gardeners have a wider selection to choose from, but do best with varieties that keep producing in hot temperatures. Small cherry and grape sized tomatoes are usually quick to mature and ripen.

With tomatoes, "Days to maturity" refers to the amount of days from the time you transplant outdoors. You’ll also need to leave 4-6 weeks to start your tomato seeds indoors. Also, grape and cherry tomatoes tend to mature the smaller the variety, the faster it matures. There are also varieties that

Description:

Tomatoes are pulpy, tangy fruits within more meaty flesh. They are in the Solanaceae or nightshade family, along with peppers, eggplants, potatoes and belladonna. The leaves are poisonous to humans, but the fruits are not.

Leaves: The leaves and stems are hairy and sticky, leaving a yellow-green stain on hands and clothes, as well as a distinct tomato scent.

Flowers: Small yellow flowers with 5 pointed lobes, usually in a cluster of 3-12.

Fruits: Fruits can be round, pear-shaped, oval, fluted or oxheart and come in an array of colors from pale pink to deep purple and including yellow, green and orange.

Suggested Varieties:

Where to begin? There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes. To grow the widest variety, you would need to start your plants from seed. Experimenting is fun, but it’s wise to start with tomatoes that are suited to your area. Some tomatoes do better in long, hot seasons and others are more suited to cooler climates. A reliable local nursery should sell plants that would be ideal for your area. You can also contact your local Cooperative Extension Office for a list of recommended varieties.

Some Classics:

  • Patio: Patio, Pixie. Tiny Tim
  • Small Fruits: Red and Yellow Pear, Small Fry, Sweet 100.
  • Early: Celebrity, Glacier, Jet Star
  • Main Season: Celebrity, Big Boy and Better, Heatwave, Roma (paste type) and Rutgers
  • Late Ace, Beefmaster, Mule Team
  • Heirlooms: Brandywine, Purple Cherokee, Zapotec

Harvesting:

Tomatoes are their most flavorful when they are allowed to fully ripen on the vine. A ripe tomato will slip off the vine with a gentle tug. Many tomato varieties grown in home gardens are thin skinned and can be easily bruised if handled roughly. Store tomatoes at room temperature.
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Grow a Tomato Plant

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