Tidbits about Tomatoes

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes – Photo: WikiCommons

It’s May 17 and today’s the day I bought tomato plants—at Garden Fever! this year—for my community garden plot. I intended to buy only three cherry-type tomatoes, but I couldn’t resist trying two others as well. Black Cherry, Sweet Million, perennial favorite Sungold, Oregon Spring (an Oregon State University introduction) and Viva Italia, a plum tomato, are now snug in their beds. The latter two are determinant varieties; the others are indeterminant tomatoes. What’s the difference? Once flowers form at the branch tips, determinant varieties stop growing, keeping the plant to about 3 feet tall. Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing until stopped by frost, which means the fruit ripens over a longer period of time. (It also means that most tomato cages sold commercially aren’t tall enough to contain them.) To get the most from indeterminant varieties, prune the non-fruiting branches and leaves so more energy goes into fruit production.

“Low maintenance” and “easy” are my gardening mantras. Consequenetly, it’s usually just a hole that gets dug in the well-tended, compost-amended garden soil. This year I splurged and added lime and bone meal to the planting hole. I probably should have added a teaspoon of Epsom salt, too, to promote productivity, but I forgot. During the growing season, Organic Gardening recommends a weekly application of liquid seaweed to increase fruit production and plant health, and two or three additions of compost. It’s likely that I will forget to do this, and before I know it, the growing season will be at an end.

I had to shake my head when I saw a posting on Pinterest recommending that a half dozen fish heads and other amendments should be added to a deep planting hole to ensure healthy, productive tomato plants. Ewww … I don’t think so!

Nighttime temperatures are expected to dip below 50 degrees for the week ahead so I need to give my tomato plants – and basil – some protection. I think I’ll stop by Goodwill and pick up some tall glass vases for this purpose, but plastic gallon milk jugs would work well, too.

What do you do to help your tomatoes grow well?

For the plant-geekier readers, here are some interesting tidbits about tomatoes (source: Wikipedia):

Originating from South America, botanically speaking, tomatoes are fruit, a berry actually. Because the tomato has much lower sugar content than other edible fruits, it is typically served as part of a salad or main course rather than dessert. It is considered a vegetable for most culinary purposes (except tomatoes are treated as a fruit in home canning practices: they are acidic enough to process in a water bath rather than a pressure cooker as vegetables require). In 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the tomato a vegetable. This declaration had economic implications: an 1887 U.S. tariff law imposed a duty on vegetables, but not on fruits. The tomato is the state vegetable of New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee and Arkansas (where it is also the state fruit).

Resources:

•    Tomato plants developed at OSU: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/osu-develops-tomatoes-especially-pnw-gardeners , including the purple tomato.
•    Tomato Varieties recommended by OSU: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lincoln/sites/default/files/RECOMMENDED_TOMATO_VARIETIES.pdf
•    10 tips for Growing Awesome Tomatoes: http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/secrets-tomato-growing-success?page=0,0