Ripe and tasty, the hearty tomato is the most popular home-grown fruit and with good reason. They are easy to grow, prolific and useful. Modern varieties are almost foolproof and bear loads of delicious fruit starting in July (earlier in the South) and they come in forms, flavors and colors that match every global cuisine imaginable. Plant a dozen and preserve enough for the winter, or grow a single tomato bush on a small balcony, either way their bright, fresh flavor cannot be beat!
Fact: Refrigeration temporarily reduces the strength of the key fragrance chemical in tomatoes. Allow them to come to room temperature before serving for maximum flavor.
An excellent tomato for first-time tomato growers. Cherries produce hundreds of bite-size fruits in a wide range of shapes and colors, with flavors that vary from tart to sweet.
The monster of the garden, weighing in at half a pound or more. They are great on burgers and for showing off your tomato growing skills, since they can be a challenge to grow due to the sheer size of the fruits.
Also called Roma or Paste tomatoes, are mostly grown for sauces and other cooking necessities, due to their meaty flesh and acidic flavor.
These tomatoes offer the most unusual shapes, colors and flavors and are great for the gourmet garden. However, they can be the most challenging tomatoes to grow because they lack the bred-in disease tolerance of other modern varieties.
The mainstays of the garden, these are excellent multipurpose fruits.
How to plant:
Plant your tomatoes deep! Leave just the growing tip and a few leaves showing, then water thoroughly and water regularly. It is best to water with several gallons per plant, then let the soil dry slightly for two or three days before watering again.
How far apart tomatoes should be planted depends on whether they are a bush-type or stake-type tomato. Bush-types or "determinate" tomatoes grow best when caged and planted about three feet apart. They produce a lot of fruit at one time, a handy attribute when growing with the intent to can. Stake-types or "indeterminate" tomatoes grow tall and need to be staked. You can plant these closer, about two feet apart, since they grow more upright and they set fruit throughout the season.
To train the vine of a staked tomato plant, remove the side shoots or "suckers" that form at each leaf joint by snapping them off and tie the plant to the stake with twine or plastic tape. The stake should be about six feet out of the ground for maximum production.
Blossom end rot: when black spots appear on the bottom of the tomato and is often caused by excessive watering, especially after several days of heavy rain. The best prevention is to keep your tomatoes evenly watered. Do not let them get too wet or too dry, because blossom end rot is also caused by lack of calcium. An application of lime can help prevent this, however once your tomatoes have blossom end rot, there is no cure, just discard any damaged fruit.
Tomato hornworms: these are the most common insects to bother tomatoes. The first sign of tomato hornworms are large bites missing from your plants, also watch for their tell-tale black droppings. Pick worms off by hand using a pair of gloves or a pair of scissors.
Do not let your tomatoes over ripen; pick them when they are nearly fully ripe. Fruit that is still slightly green will ripen on your windowsill.
- Burpee Home Gardens