All About Tomatoes
Who doesn’t love a good home grown tomato? Tomatoes are easy to grow and oh so good! There are different types of tomatoes for different purposes. Whether you want to eat them fresh, make a homemade sauce, or can them for use during the winter, we have a tomato or two for you!
All Purpose or Globe – Medium sized fruits, under 1 pound. Varieties include: Better Boy, Celebrity, Fourth of July
Beefsteak – Large fruit, up to 2 pounds. Varieties include: Beefmaster, Beefsteak and Big Beef
Canning or Paste – Have dense flesh and little juice, so they are the best type for cooking, canning and drying. Varieties include: Roma, LaRoma III & San Marzano
Cherry and Grape – produce small fruits in a variety of colors and an array of shapes, including round, pear-shaped and teardrop-shaped.. Varieties include: Sungold, Sunsugar, Black Cherry, Supersweet 100, & Juliet
Growth Habit Explained
Determinate means short vines and a bush-like, compact habit. The blossom clusters appear at the tops of the stems, when the plant reaches it’s mature height. Most determinate varieties produce fruits in short time span. These can be a great choice for canning. Many determinate tomatoes can often be grown in large containers.
Indeterminate varieties have long vines, and will definitely need support with a tall cage or stake. The blossom clusters occur along the sides of the stem. Indeterminate varieties usually produce fruit until frost.
The difference between a Heirloom, a Hybrid & a GMO plant
Heirlooms come from seed that has been handed down for generations in a particular region or area, hand-selected by gardeners for a special trait. Heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated, which means they’re pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention. An heirloom variety must be open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms.
Our heirlooms include: Black Cherry, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Golden Jubilee, Green Zebra & San Marzano.
A hybrid is created when plant breeders intentionally cross-pollinate two different varieties of a plant, aiming to produce an offspring, or hybrid, that contains the best traits of each of the parents. Cross-pollination is a natural process that occurs within members of the same plant species.
In hybridization, pollination is carefully controlled to ensure that the right plants are crossed to achieve the desired combination of characteristics, such as bigger size or better disease resistance. The process of developing a hybrid typically requires many years.
In general, hybrids offer some combination of these favorable traits: dependability, less required care, early maturity, better yield, improved flavor, specific plant size, and/or disease resistance. A hybrid is not considered a GMO.
GMO or Genetically Modified Organism
A GMO plant is the result of genetic engineering. This is a process during which the plant’s DNA is altered in a way that cannot occur naturally, and sometimes includes the insertion of genes from other species.
We all look forward to a bumper crop of juicy tomatoes. It is always advisable to prepare the soil before you plant. Adding organic matter such as mushroom compost and worm castings are good for the plants and good for the soil. Tomatoes like a warm, slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0-7. Mushroom compost will add acidity to the soil.
Tomatoes prefer to be planted deeply. The stems develop roots when set underground. The increased root system makes the plant stronger and provides it with better access to water and nutrients. Plant your tomatoes deeply, leaving only three to four sets of leaves above the soil. Pinch off any flowers that will be below the soil.
Tomatoes like to be fed when they are planted, again when fruit starts forming, and then every 3-4 weeks after. Espoma organic Tomato-tone provides extra calcium which helps prevent Blossom End Rot (hard black or brown patches on the blossom ends of ripening tomatoes) and Dr. Earth Organic Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer includes mychorrhizae which helps produce thick, healthy roots.
Mulch – Mulch aids in moisture retention, controls weeds, and regulates soil temperature.
When buying tomato hybrid varieties look for the varieties that are disease resistant. The following letters on the tomato tags stand for resistance to common tomato diseases.
The most common tomato diseases are Anthracnose, Early Blight, Blossom End Rot and Septoria Leaf Spot, all characterized by spots on either the leaves or fruits. Fungicides are available to help in preventing them, but choose resistant cultivars whenever possible. Watering the plants at the base will help prevent fungus.
Fusarium wilt symptoms begin in tomatoes as slight vein clearing on outer leaflets and drooping of leaf petioles. Later the lower leaves wilt, turn yellow and die and the entire plant may be killed, often before the plant reaches maturity. In many cases a single shoot wilts before the rest of the plant shows symptoms or one side of the plant is affected first. If the main stem is cut, dark, chocolate-brown streaks may be seen running lengthwise through the stem. This discoloration often extends upward for some distance and is especially evident at the point where the petiole joins the stem.
FF=Fusarium Wilt Races 1 and 2
Verticillium wilt symptoms on tomatoes are similar to those of Fusarium wilt. Often no symptoms are seen until the plant is bearing heavily or a dry period occurs. The bottom leaves become pale, then tips and edges die and leaves finally die and drop off. V-shaped lesions at leaf tips are typical of Verticillium wilt of tomato. Infected plants usually survive the season but are somewhat stunted and both yields and fruits may be small depending on severity of attack.
Plant parasitic nematodes, are small microscopic roundworms which live in the soil and attack the roots of plants. Yield reductions can be extensive but vary significantly between plant and nematode species. In addition to the direct crop damage caused by nematodes, many of these species have also been shown to predispose plants to infection by fungal or bacterial pathogens or to transmit virus diseases, which contributes to additional yield reductions.
T=Tobacco Mosaic Virus
The foliage shows mosaic (mottled) areas with alternating yellowish and dark green areas. Leaves are sometimes fern-like in appearance and sharply pointed. Infections of young plants reduce fruit set and occasionally cause blemishes and distortions of the fruit. The dark green areas of the mottle often appear thicker and somewhat elevated giving the leaves a blister-like appearance.
A= Alternaria Stem Canker (Early Blight)
Symptoms appear on stems, leaves, and fruit. Dark brown to black cankers with concentric zonation occur on stems near the soil line or above ground. Cankers enlarge, girdle the stem before harvest, and kill the plants. Vascular tissue about 2 inches above and below the cankers exhibit brown streaks. Dark brown to black areas of dead tissue between leaf veins are caused by a toxin produced by the fungus.
The tomato plant disease late blight, caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans, occurs during periods of cool, rainy weather that may come at the end of a growing season. It looks almost like frost damage on leaves, causing irregular green-black splotches. Fruits may have large, irregular-shape brown blotches that quickly become rotten.
St=Stemphylium Grey Leaf Spot
The disease is limited to the leaf blades. The fungus infects plants from the earliest seedling stage to maturity. Initial symptoms include one to several minute brownish black specks that appear on both surfaces of the leaf. The area changes in color from brownish black to grayish brown, as the spots enlarge and these centers crack and partially drop out to give the leaf a shot-hole appearance. The entire leaf then turns yellow, droops, and eventually dies.
Note: Most heirloom tomatoes do not have disease resistance like hybrid tomatoes do. They tend to be more susceptible to diseases, such as blight and Fusarium or Verticullium Wilts.
Keeping Your Tomatoes Healthy
The following tips help to prevent disease and other problems.
• Rotating crops every year
• Amending soil with organic matter
• Buy disease-resistant varieties
• Water at the base of the plant if possible. If using a sprinkler, water early in day so foliage drys out by dark
• Remove any infected or diseased plants immediately
• Keep tools clean
Disease and pest problems result in affecting the leaves, stem, and fruit. Check your plants for these signs:
- Leaves – check for spots, yellowing, stickiness, mottling and curling.
- Stems – check for mold, discolored streaks, mushiness and stickiness.
- Fruit – check for mold, misshaped fruit, sunken and discolored spots, holes, and cracks.
If you see the little critter at left crawling around on your tomatoes, get rid of it immediately! It is a Tomato Horn Worm. They are very destructive.
Harvesting and Storing Tomatoes
Tomato flavor declines at temperatures are below 55°, so don’t keep them in the frig. If kept in a warm place, fruits picked when they’re showing stripes or blushes of ripe color will continue to ripen. If you get a bumper crop, they can be canned, dried or frozen. Tomatoes don’t need to be blanched before they are dried or frozen. To freeze, just quarter them and put in freezer bags.
Fun Tomato Facts
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture says there are 25,000 tomato varieties. Other sources cap the number of types of tomatoes at 10,000.
- Tomatoes come in a variety of colors including pink, purple, black, yellow and white.
- Tomato seedlings have been grown in space
- 93% of American gardeners grow tomatoes in their yards.
- The largest ever tomato on record was picked in Oklahoma, USA, in 1986. It weighed over 7 pounds 12 ounces!
- China is the number one producer of tomatoes around the world. The U.S. is second.
- Tomatoes originated in Peru, where their Aztec name meant, “plump thing with a navel.”
- The tomato is the state fruit and vegetable of Arkansas
- Tomatoes gain weight as they ripen – even after they have been picked
- Tomato juice is the official state beverage of Ohio.
- The world’s largest tomato tree was grown in the experimental greenhouse at Walt Disney World Resort. It produced over 32,000 tomatoes in the first 16 months after it was planted, and holds the record for the most tomatoes in a single year, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
- The largest tomato plant (a “Sungold” variety), recorded in 2000, reached 65 feet in length and was grown by Nutriculture Ltd. of Mawdesley, Lancashire, UK.
- The scientific name for the tomato is Lycopersicon lycopersicum, which means, wolf peach.
- Colonial American gardeners grew tomatoes for their looks, but were afraid to eat them.
- Arkansas uses tomatoes as both the state fruit and the state vegetable.
- A tomato is really a fruit, not a vegetable.
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