Tomatoes are the most popular garden crop. The tomato is in the nightshade family along with Irish potatoes, eggplants, peppers and tomatillos.
They are nutritious, providing vitamins A and C. Fresh tomatoes are popular in salads, on sandwiches and sliced. Tomatoes can also be used in several other ways and in main dishes.
A good time to plant tomatoes is in the spring after the danger of frost. If transplants are purchased from a garden supply store, select stocky, disease-free plants.
Tomatoes are considered either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate varieties of tomatoes, also called bush tomatoes, are varieties that grow to a compact height. They stop growing and ripen all their crop at or near the same time, in a four to six week period. Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called vining tomatoes. They require caging and/or staking. Indeterminate varieties will grow and produce fruit until killed by the frost.
The proper location, soil and fertilization is important to have success with growing tomatoes. Tomatoes can be grown on a variety of soils, however, a deep well-drained soil in full sun is most suitable. Tomatoes grow best in a slightly acid soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. A soil test is always the best method for determining the fertilizer and lime needs.
Tomatoes should not be planted in the same location in the garden year after year. Remember plants in the same family as tomatoes should not be planted in that area as well. Rotate plants around in the garden so they are not planted in the same location more than once every three years.
There are several tomato varieties available. They range widely in size shape, and color. Select those that are adapted to the area and best fit the situation.
Another important aspect of selecting varieties is to select those that have disease resistance. Tomato disease resistance codes are listed on tomato seed packets or on tomato seedling labels. They appear in capital letters. Each capital letter stands for a particular disease or pest.
T—Tobacco Mosiac Virus
St—Stemphylium (gray leaf spot)
TSWV-Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
Mulch materials, such as straw, leaves, or compost, can prove to be beneficial for tomato plants. Mulch applied 4 to 6 inches thick provide weed control, uniform moisture levels, reduce certain disease problems and improve fruit quality.
Another important factor involved in growing tomatoes successfully is irrigation. Tomatoes need about 1 to 2 inches of water per week. In the absence of rainfall, water plants thoroughly once a week. Heavy soakings once a week are better than many light sprinklings.
Tomatoes are subject to a number of disorders. Tomatoes are also attacked by a number of insects and diseases. Frequent observation of the tomato plants can help stay ahead of these problems.
Proper cultural practices such as resistant varieties, crop rotation and sanitation can help reduce disorders, insect and disease problems. Sometimes pesticides may have to be used to offer some protection against insects and diseases. If it becomes necessary to use chemicals, remember to read and follow the label directions.
A tomato workshop will be held on Wednesday, April 10, at the Guntersville Public Library Auditorium located at 1240 O’Brig Avenue in Guntersville.
The workshop is scheduled for 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. The topics for the workshop will include information on tomato culture, variety selection, tomato insects and diseases, and tomatoes inside out: nutrition facts, health benefits, and safety.
The workshop will provide useful information to homeowners, Master Gardeners and backyard vegetable enthusiasts or individuals interested in getting started in a vegetable enterprise.
There is a $5 fee to attend the workshop. For planning purposes interested persons are asked to please pre-register at the Marshall County Extension Office. For additional information or to pre-register, call at (256) 582-2009.