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  MG Manual Reference
Ch. 10, pp. 120 - 125

[Selected Crops: intro | asparagus | beans | broccoli | brussels sprouts | cabbage | cauliflower | sweet corn | cucumbers | eggplant | lettuce | melons | onions | peppers | potatoes | squash | tomatoes | herbs | herb use ]


Light: Sunny.
Soil: Well-drained, loam.
Fertility: Medium-rich
pH: 6.0 to 6.7
Temp: Warm (70 to 80° F).
Moisture: Moist, but not waterlogged.
Planting: Transplant after all danger of frost is past and when the soil has warmed. Start seed indoors 5 to 7 weeks prior to this date.
Spacing: 18 to 36 inches by 36 inches.
Hardiness: Tender annual.
Fertilizer Needs: Heavy feeder. Use starter solution for transplants. Sidedress 1 to 2 weeks before the first tomato ripens with 1-1/2 ounces 33-0-0 per 10-foot row. Sidedress again 2 weeks after the first ripe tomato with a balanced fertilizer such as 5-10-5; repeat 1 month later.

Tomatoes are valuable garden plants in that they require relatively little space for large production. Each tomato plant, properly cared for, yields 10 to 15 pounds or more of fruit.
Choose varieties with disease resistance bred in for best results. Fusarium and verticillium wilt are common diseases that can destroy a whole tomato crop; treating either disease is difficult. Many varieties are resistant to these two diseases look for VF after the cultivar name, indicating resistance to the wilts. VFN means the plants are resistant to verticillium, fusarium and nematodes; VFNT adds tobacco mosaic to the list.
The varieties of tomato plants available may seem overwhelming to a new gardener; ask gardening friends for the names of their favorites. This will give you a good idea of what does well. Several major types of tomatoes exist that can be chosen according to need:
(a) Midget, patio, or dwarf tomato varieties have very compact vines best grown in hanging baskets or other containers. The tomatoes produced may be, but are not necessarily, the cherry type (1" diameter or less). Some produce larger fruit. These plants are usually short-lived, producing their crop quickly and for a short period.
(b) Cherry tomatoes have small, cherry-sized (or a little larger) fruits often used in salads. Plants of cherry tomato range from dwarf (Tiny Tim) to seven-footers (Sweet 100). One standard cherry tomato plant is usually sufficient for a family, since they generally produce abundantly.
(c) Compact or determinate tomato plants may include cultivars of the above two categories. Determinate refers to the plant habit of growing to a certain size, setting fruit, and then declining. Most of the early ripening tomato varieties are determinate and will not produce tomatoes for an extended period.
(d) Indeterminate tomato plants are the opposite of the determinate types. The vines continue to grow until frost or disease kills them. These are the standard, all-summer tomatoes that most people like to grow. They require support of some kind for best results, since otherwise the fruit would be in contact with the soil and thus susceptible to rot.
(e) Beefsteak type tomatoes are large-fruited types, producing a tomato slice that easily covers a sandwich, the whole fruit weighing as much as two pounds or more. These are usually late to ripen, so plant some standard-sized or early tomatoes for longest harvest.
(f) Paste tomatoes have small pear-shaped fruits with very meaty interiors and few seeds. They are less juicy than standard tomatoes and are without a central core. Paste tomatoes are a favorite for canning since they don't have to be cut up and since they are so meaty.
(g) Some tomatoes are orange, yellow, pink, or striped, and usually the only way to get these is by growing your own.
(h) Winter storage tomatoes are a relatively new item for gardeners. The plants are set out later in the season than most tomatoes and fruit are harvested partially ripe. If properly stored, they will stay fresh for twelve weeks or more. While the flavor does not equal that of summer vine-ripened tomatoes, many people prefer them to grocery store tomatoes in winter.
Tomato plants may be started indoors from seed or transplants may be purchased. If starting your own plants, use a light soil mix and give the plants plenty of light. Tall spindly transplants are usually caused by low light levels in the home. Unless you have a sunny, south-facing window, supplemental light will probably be necessary. The seed are sown six to eight weeks before the last frost date in your area. A few weeks before transplanting time, harden-off indoor-grown plants by exposing them to an increasing number of hours outdoors each day. Bring plants in if there is danger of frost.
A few varieties of tomato (the subarctics) are bred to grow well in low spring temperatures; however, these are rarely available in the usual markets and ordinarily must be grown from seed.
When you are ready to put home-grown or purchased plants into the ground, select stocky transplants about six to ten inches tall. Set tomato transplants in the ground covering the stems so that only two or three sets of true leaves are exposed. Horizontal planting of tomato plants is an effective way to make plants stronger, especially leggy ones. Roots will form along the buried portion of the stem, giving better growth and less chance of plant injury from a too-weak stem. Do not remove the containers if they are peat or paper pots, but open or tear off one side to allow roots to get a good start. If non-biodegradable containers are used, knock the plants out of the pots before transplanting, and loosen the roots somewhat. Press the soil firmly around the transplant so that a slight depression is formed for holding water. Pour approximately one pint of starter solution (2 Tbsp. 5-10-10 or 5-10-5 fertilizer per gallon of water, or dilute fish emulsion) around each plant to wash the soil around the roots.
If plants are to be staked or trellised, space them 24" apart in rows three feet apart. Though it requires more initial work, staking makes caring for tomatoes easier than letting them sprawling. Since they are off the ground, fruit rots are reduced, spraying is easier and may be required less, and harvesting is much less work. Use wooden stakes six feet long and 1-1/2 or 2 inches wide. Drive them one foot into the soil about four to six inches from the plant soon after transplanting. Attach heavy twine or strips of cloth to the stakes every ten inches. As the plants grow, pull the stems toward the stakes and tie loosely.
Prune staked tomatoes to either one or two main stems. At the junction of each leaf and the first main stem a new shoot will develop. If plants are trained to two stems, choose one of these shoots, normally at the first or second leaf-stem junction, for the second main stem. Remove all other shoots, called suckers, weekly to keep the plant to these two main stems. Pinch shoots off with your fingers. Tomato plants may also be set along a fence or trellis and tied and pruned in a manner similar to that used with stakes.
Growing tomatoes in wire cages is a method gaining in popularity among gardeners because of its simplicity. Cage-growing allows the tomato plant to grow in its natural manner, but keeps the fruit and leaves off the ground, offering the advantages of staking as well. Using wire cages requires a large initial expenditure and a large storage area, but many gardeners feel that the freedom from pruning and staking is worth it. The cages, if heavy duty, will last many years. Be sure to get fencing with at least 6" spacing between wires so that you can get your hand inside to harvest the tomatoes. If tomato plants in wire cages are pruned at all, once is enough; prune to three or four main stems. Wire-cage tomatoes develop a heavy foliage cover, reducing sunscald on fruits and giving more leeway when bottom leaves become blighted and have to be removed. Many staked plants are nearly naked by late summer. Caged plants are less prone to the spread of disease from plant handling, since they do not have open wounds and must be handled less frequently than staked plants. However, it helps to space the plants somewhat further apart (three feet is good) to allow good air circulation between plants; humidity is higher because of the foliage density, and diseases such as late blight spread rapidly in humid situations. If well-nourished and cared for, caged tomatoes can produce exceptional harvests and make up for the extra space with high production. This type of culture is especially suited to indeterminate varieties.
Diseases: Early blight, septoria leafspot, verticillium and fusarium wilts, late blight, tobacco mosaic virus, bacterial spot, curly top virus.
Insects: Flea beetle, hornworm, stink bugs, fruitworm, aphids, mites, whiteflies, cutworms.
Other Pests: Nematodes.
Cultural: Blossom-end rot, irregular soil moisture or calcium deficiency; poor color, yellow spots or large whitish-grey spots, sunscald from lack of foliage cover; leaf roll, physiological condition often found in pruned tomatoes; fruit cracking, irregular soil moisture; black walnut wilt, caused by roots of tomato plants coming in contact with roots of black walnut tree. Temperatures above 90° or below 60° will reduce fruit set.
Days to Maturity: 55 to 105 days.
Harvest: Harvest fully vine-ripened but still firm. Most varieties are dark red. Picked tomatoes should be placed in shade. Light is not necessary for ripening immature tomatoes. Some green tomatoes may be picked before the first killing frost and stored in a cool (55ºF), moist (90% relative humidity) place. When desired, ripen fruits at 70ºF.
Approximate yields: 15 to 45 pounds per 10-foot row.
Amount to Raise: 20 to 25 pounds per person if used fresh; 25 to 40 pounds for canning.
Storage: Medium-cool (50 to 70° F), moist (90% relative humidity) conditions for 1 to 3 weeks for green tomatoes. Cool (45 to 50° F), moist (90% relative humidity) conditions for 4 to 7 days for ripe tomatoes.
Preservation: Can or freeze as sauces or in chunks (whole or quartered), peeled.

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