How To



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Every summer, gardeners across America continue in their efforts to grow one of the most popular vegetables in America—the tomato. After all, is there anything quite as delicious and refreshing as home-grown tomatoes?

From now through mid-July, you can begin planting tomatoes for fall harvest. But before stepping into the planting process, understanding basic terms, types, and classifications of the delectable vegetable is a must! So, whether you are an avid gardener . . . are interested in developing your gardening skills further . . . or perhaps just a lover of tomatoes, here are some valuable terms and tips you may want to add to your summer learning.

Tomato plants can be described as either indeterminate or determinate. Indeterminate plants have the capability of growing, blooming, and producing all summer if weather conditions cooperate. Names to look for include Bonnie Better Boy, Bonnie Original, Early Girl, Sweet 100, Sun Sugar.

Determinate plants are considered compact. In other words, the growth process ends once it has reached a particular size and has produced all its fruit, making these ideal for canning and sauce production. Those varieties have names such as Better Bush, Bush Goliath, Patio, Roma, Solar Fire, Sweet and Neat, Husky Red.

When referring to the fruit’s expected harvest time, use the terms early, middle, and late. In order to enjoy tomatoes throughout the summer, plant a variety of these to ensure a constant supply.  

Tomatoes are classified into two types: heirloom and hybrid. An heirloom is at least fifty years old and is not a hybrid (Arkansas Traveler, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, German Queen, Mr. Stripey). A hybrid is a cross between varieties, improving traits such as disease resistance (Juliet, Bonnie Original, Big Boy, Summer Set, Tami G).

With summer underway and temperatures rising, choose heat-set tomato varieties such as Arkansas Traveler, Florida 91, Husky Red Cherry, or Super Sweet 100.

With all the varieties, tomatoes can be challenging to choose, but “Tomato Chooser” can help. Visit Bonnie Plants to learn more.

When planting your favorite tomatoes, ensure they grow to perfection by following these simple steps provided by Green Earth Media Group:

  1. Prepare your plot: Loosen the ground to create a welcoming bed for roots to grow. You can add 3 or 4 inches of compost or other organic matter, especially in clay or sandy soils. Then dig a hole that is as deep as the plant is tall because you are going to bury two-thirds of the plant.
  2. Slip Plant from pot if in plastic: Gently remove the plant by slipping the plastic container from the root-ball. Don’t tug on the plant stem; this can sever it from the roots. If the roots are growing out of holes in the bottom of the pot, tear or cut them away and squeeze and twist the pot as necessary to work it from the roots. If your plant is in a biodegradable pot, just tear off the bottom of the pot to make sure that roots are in instant contact with the soil.
  3. Bury Two-thirds of the plant: Set the plant in the hole deeply enough so that two-thirds of it is buried. Roots will sprout all along the buried stem to make a stronger plant. You can pinch off the lower leaves if you prefer, but it is not necessary.
  4. Don’t forget to fertilize: Mix fertilizer into the soil that you will put back into the hole.  It is best to fertilize according to recommendations from a soil test, but if you don’t have that, use a timed-release fertilizer, which doesn’t leach…or use an organic fertilizer at the rate recommended on the label. Bonnie’s Vegetable and Herb Plant Food is a natural fertilizer and the same liquid food that Bonnie uses to grow plants in greenhouses across the country. Tomatoes love it.
  5. Water Well: Water thoroughly at soil line. This is very important to help settle the soil and start the plant.
  6. Maintain your mulch: Mulch with pine needles, straw, or compost to help keep moisture in the soil and prevent weeds. Mulch should be 2 to 3 inches deep for effective weed control.

To top off your tomato experience, try some of the great recipes in the links below!



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