Big FAT Juicy Tomatoes
Just the thought of a big, fat, juicy tomato straight from the garden gets me completely twitterpaited! That first tomato of the year, so big and sugary, the juice runs down your arm. Man, I can hardly wait! And if you’re thinking you can’t grow tomatoes this year because you haven’t planted them yet.…. Not so. From May 25 through early June is actually THE BEST TIME to transplant tomatoes. And here’s why; tomatoes planted any earlier will not grow until the soil warms up past 50 degrees. And get this; they flat-out, stop working if the days get hotter than 90 degrees. But let’s not worry about that now.
Instead, we’ll concentrate on the essentials. Let’s compare To-MAW-toes and To-MAY-toes shall we? That way we’ll get a mind for what to variety to buy, how to choose them and how to plant them. First how to choose the plants and this goes for all plants in the garden center. Keep in mind, there’s going to be a lot of lanky old plants on the shelves because business has been slow due to the weather. If nobody buys the plants when they’re fresh, some nurseries just keep them around hoping you’ll buy them later. Don’t buy any junk, you’ll regret it later. I just bought my favorite cherry tomato ‘Summer Gold’ from Your New Garden Store. (New plants are delivered every single day and they compost anything they wouldn’t buy themselves.) If you find plants that are less than perfect, find somewhere new to shop. Here are some buying guidelines:
Avoid limp or wilted plants. It usually means the tomato is water stressed.
Choose plants with the deepest green color you can find.
Check the leaves. If the leaves are pale or yellow, or have any sign of bugs, don’t buy it.
Next, what varieties are best? Even if you’ve already got a favorite, I’ve got some new information you should consider. I chuckle every time I think back on the tomato trials Harts Nursery holds every year at the State Fairgrounds every August during the fair. So many visitors swarm around that bed of tomatoes, foot traffic wears the grass away. Inevitably people will gather around the tomatoes and swear by just one variety “I only grow beefsteak” or “Early Girl” is the best tasting tomato ever.” And while that might be true back in Oklahoma or where ever these tomatoes became famous, it’s often not true in the Northwest. Yes, blame the weather, ours is very different than other parts of the country. Northwest weather is cooler and wetter in the spring, followed by hot summer day and cold nights. A recipe for disaster when growing tomatoes…. So the Tomato Trials at the fairgrounds pitted the old standards against the new varieties bred by Oregon State University scientists and let’s you judge which is superior. Hands down the new varieties always look better, have more fruit and fewer problems. The results?
The all time winner from Harts Nursery for cherry tomatoes is (of course) ‘Summer Tropics’ an early producer with an almost perfect score in tests by OSU scientists. It rates an 8 out of 9 points for the amount of fruit it produces, excellent flavor and resisting sunburn.
The top tomato with the most fruit to ripen the earliest isn’t ‘Early Girl’ it’s ‘Early Feast.’ This tomato was developed at OSU to withstand our weird spring and summer weather. While ‘Early Girl’ is prone to disease with blight and powdery mildew, ‘Early Feast’ is not. ‘Early Feast’ is resistant to blight; a fungal disease that kills the whole plant just as it gets going strong.
Here are a couple of tips you should know about tomatoes, if you’re going to take the time to grow them.
When planting, pinch off the first blossoms, forcing the tomato to make strong roots.
Pick the fruit when full colored but still firm (if you can get there fast enough.)
Don’t store tomatoes in the fridge, they loose their flavor.
Deep watering (once a week) is most important from blossom through fruit growth.
Super Duper Tomato Growing Soil Recipe
(Straight from a tomato expert!)
2 Shovelfuls of Manure
¼ cup Bone Meal
2 TB Fast Acting Lime
(Pour ingredients into the planting hole. Mix with soil. Put roots onto the soil mixture, while laying the plant on its side. Next cover the tomato stem on its side allowing just the top leaves to poke out from the soil. The planted tomato stem will sprout tons of roots… and more roots means more fruits!)