Is it time to plant tomatoes? Sure, if you feel lucky. The nice weather in February will lull gardeners into a false sense of security. The almanac says the last freeze date is March 17th. I resisted that tomato urge but I do have my garden prepped and I hope that everyone has theirs ready as well.
The most popular garden crop worldwide is the tomato. Hopefully, the following will answer the most common tomato questions.
I recommend a pre-plant fertilizer application 3 to 4 weeks before. Since I try to keep my garden all-natural I pick fertilizers accordingly. I have had excellent results with Wells Brothers Dirt Diet 4-1-2 and Medina’s 3-2-3. Once the plants are growing, choose a fertilizer with an equal or lower nitrogen (1st number) than phosphate (2nd number) and potash (3rd number). Too much nitrogen will grow large plants with little or no fruit. My go-to fertilizer is Espoma’s Tomato Tone with a 3-4-6 ratio. Synthetics with a 4-8-4, 5-10-5 and 10-10-10 can also be good choices.
Heirloom vs. Hybrid vs. GMO
The term Heirloom is used to describe any type of plant or seed that has been saved and grown for a period of years. Heirloom seed must be of the openly pollinated type. Heirlooms are simply varieties that are capable of producing seeds that will produce seedlings just like the parent (true) plant.
Hybrids mean crossbreeding compatible types of plants to a plant with the best features of both. Many modern plants are the results of these crosses. Seed from hybrids will not produce plants with identical qualities. Plants can cross-pollinate in nature and hybrids repeatedly selected and grown may eventually stabilize into Heirlooms.
GMOs, (Genetically Modified Organisms) can be any plant, animal or microorganism, which has been genetically altered at the molecular level. Wells Brothers sells NO GMO plants or seeds.
The two most important terms:
Determinate: relatively compact (bush) plants that do most of their growing before setting a limited number of fruit that tends to ripen all at once. As a rule, determinates set fruit the fastest.
Indeterminate: a vining plant that can grow very large (needs support), blossoms, and produce tomatoes throughout the growing season.
The Celebrity is the exception to the rule; it is called semi-determinate even though the tags say it is determinate. It grows like a determinate (bush) and in some cases will produce more than one crop.
All tomatoes are planted the same way regardless of variety. From 70% to 80% of the total plant (including the roots) should be below ground. Remove any container material, including the fiber pots. I add Wells Brothers “Jump Starter” to the prepared hole. Then lightly break up the root ball and dip it in water just before planting. Now is the time to install any support structure that the plant will need.
Click here to read everything you ever wanted to know about tomatoes:
Some Tomato names to remember:
Husky Cherry Red