Tomato Tips


Renowned for their delectable taste and high vitamin content,

tomatoes are the most popular vegetables home gardeners grow. Not

always have they had such a good reputation, however. Native to South

America, they were first cultivated by the Mayans in Central America.

Cortez took tomatoes back to Spain where they were well received with

the Spanish and other Mediterranean cultures. Later they were thought

to be strong aphrodisiacs. Later still they were believed to be

deadly poisonous! It would take another century for the tomato to

overcome these stigmas and be cultivated in England and northern

Europe for the healthful, delicious fruit we know and enjoy today.

Determinate verses Indeterminate

Determinate or "bush" varieties are fairly compact. Most of their

fruit is grown over a short 4-6 week period. They generally just

require a stake or cage and little pruning.

Indeterminate are more rambling and continue to grow and flower

throughout the season. They have apical buds at their tips, which

continue to grow in warm weather. These plants need more pruning and

training, but the trade off is longer production time.

Prevention begins with plant selection

Tomato wilt diseases and nematodes live in soil for years and are the

number one challenge. It is extremely hard to get rid of them. The

best answer is to choose the right variety of plants. Look for the

following descriptions on seed packets and plant tags:

VF - This variety is resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilt.

VFN - Also resistant to nematodes.

Rotation of planting

If possible, it is very effective to plant your tomatoes in a

different place each year from the last year. Peppers, potatoes and

eggplants are all considered in the "tomato family." Rotate these

planting sites as you do your tomatoes.


Tomatoes thrive in rich, organic soil. Use plenty of compost both in

the holes you transplant into and as side dressings during the

growing season.

Set each plant deeply into the soil and cover with soil up to 3-4

branches from its top. Be sure you've allotted enough room to add a

cage or other supports later depending on the tomato varieties you've


Water well.

Mulching is nature's natural way of protection. Apply a topdressing

of compost, shredded leaves, straw, grass clippings, rotted manure,

newspaper, etc.

Effective, fast alternatives I've used

are also Red Garden Mulch and > Tomato Craters.

Do not let your tomatoes dry out. Water daily or every several days.

Remember not to set tomatoes out until night temperatures are 55° F.

Most tomatoes will not set fruit if night temperatures fall below

this. Have available some sort of Plant Protectors for any occasional

lower night temperature predictions.

An alternative I like is to cover my

early plantings with a Crop Cover

for the first weeks. It protects them

from temperature fluctuations, wind,

insects and birds until they are well