Top Tomato Tips

As is widely recognized, growing tomatoes is perhaps one of the most common activities in the garden patch. Due to their quick growth habit and excellent production potential, almost every gardener adds them to their list of plants to adorn their garden space. Like any other plant, there are cultural practices that need to take place during the growing season to ensure good productivity for these plants.

Which Tomato Should I Grow?

Almost every time I start thinking about which varieties, hybrids and/or heirlooms to cultivate, I will change my mind at least 5 times prior to arriving to a final selection. If I had the space, I’d grow more tomatoes! Truthfully, I don’t believe there’s a “one fits all” tomato to grow. For instance, in a 20-mile radius from where you live, you’ll find that many types of tomatoes are cultivated and every grower swears by their choices. At St. Joseph Street Community Garden you’ll find varieties, hybrids and heirlooms in the mix.

Before I reveal my short list of superstars, now I sound like Motley Fool, it’s important to know the basic tomato types available. Growth habit is the divining rod here. Tomatoes are either determinate, indeterminate or dwarf. A determinate tomato can reach 4 to 5 feet in height while the indeterminate can attain a height of 6 to 9 feet. The dwarf tomato, a material which I do not cultivate, is suited for container gardening. Determinate tomatoes typically have a shorter flowering and fruit production period making them more suitable for large production growers. The indeterminates have much longer flowering and fruiting cycles making them an excellent choice for the garden plot.

Indeterminate Tomato

An Excellent Read for the Tomato Enthusiast

Like anything else, you can find a ton of information about tomatoes in books, catalogs, university bulletins and online. However, one of my favorite sources of information is my tomato bible (see below):

  • Title: EPIC Tomatoes (How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time)
  • Author: Craig LeHoullier
  • Publisher: Story Publishing
  • Published 2015

I couldn’t resist. Here’s a photo of the front cover.

My Tomato Bible

Pruning Tomatoes

Please read my post entitled “Pruning Tomatoes”….

Disease Control

Well, and although disease can be an issue for tomatoes, I don’t seem to have many problems with foliar diseases. I attribute this to being careful not to over fertilize plants, irrigate at the base of plants (this reduces splashing which moves spores from soil to the plant), pruning (see above) and cultivating tomatoes which exhibit resistance to many of our common foliar and root diseases.

Insect Control

I’ve grown tomatoes for years and in many states across the USA. When it comes to insects, I’ve only had difficulties with Tomato Hornworm and occasionally with Western Yellowstriped Armyworm . Both larvae stages can do considerable damage to leaves and fruit. If larvae are not controlled promptly the amount of damage escalates quickly. Fortunately, we have an excellent means of organic control for both pests. I use Bacillus thuringensis, a soil borne bacteria, to control these pests. Several vendors manufacture and sell this product in liquid form making it simple to apply with a hand held sprayer.

Tomato Hornworm

I usually apply the first dose a few weeks after flowering initiates. As long as it doesn’t rain, the treatment seems to remain effective for up to two weeks. In a given season I may apply Bacillus perhaps 4 or 5 times. Any larvae which ingest the bacteria will stop feeding, almost immediately, and their development ceases.

Western Yellowstriped Armyworm

Growing the Best

Oops…… I almost forgot to tell you which tomatoes work well for me. Here they are, Better Boy, Ivan (MO heirloom), Mortgage Lifter (heirloom) and Jetsetter. Warning, this list will change!

Applying Fertilizer

As you already know, tomato plants have the potential to produce enough fruit for a small village. One of the ways to tap into this potential is by applying fertilizer throughout the tomatoes growth cycle. i may feed my tomatoes 5 times beginning at transplant.

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