Some of us have anxiously planned ahead by preparing for this glorious time of year. Now it is time to go into the garden! If not, don’t fret, and refer to Tomatoes: “Fruit” of Labor for a list to get you started. Then, decide how much room you have, how much sun you will get in that area, and plan accordingly. Remember, tomato plants need at least 6 hours or more of sun per day, and do not put them near other plants that will block the sun from them. Below are varieties of seedlings that I have grown in containers and have worked very well for me. Read on about the different tomato plants you can buy for your space and how to plant them.
You can purchase tomato plants at a garden market or online. I have done both, but I prefer to peruse my garden market to pick out the locally grown plants. I then order online for the unique Heirloom that might not be offered locally. Perusing the garden market can be very intimidating, especially if you are not familiar with the plant jargon on those pesky plant tags that come with each plant. When you read a tomato plant’s tag, you’ll see the words determinate or indeterminate. These two words “determine” how they grow, and how long they will bear fruit.
Determinate varieties are more compact, or “bush”, tomatoes and will produce a good crop for only a few weeks. They won’t need tall staking; a small tomato cage will do. Some of these varieties are:
- Roma – An Heirloom plum tomato. Great for pastes and sauces.
- Early Girl Hybrid – This is truly a compact plant and it produces early in the season.
- Bush Big Boy Hybrid – Don’t let the name scare you! This compact plant is perfect for those with little space to spare. Sweet tasting!
- Patio Tomato – These are sweet cherry tomatoes. Great for snacking! These tomatoes are actually considered semi-determinate and have produced through the summer. This one is a “Sweetheart”!
Indeterminate varieties are vine tomatoes that will grow taller, need plenty of staking, and will continuously produce until the first fall frost. Some of these varieties are:
- Sun Gold Cherry – A cherry tomato, golden orange in color, that is great for snacking!
- Fourth Of July – First to ripen by July 4th! My husband says, “These will literally explode in your mouth when you bite into them!”
- Mortgage Lifter – An Heirloom beefsteak. An old, tried, and true variety that has withstood the test and taste of time. There is a great story behind these. A farmer sold these tomatoes to pay off his mortgage back in the day!
- Beefsteak Heritage Hybrid – Great for salads and slicing for sandwiches. We’re looking at you, BLT! These are big tomatoes, so plan to stake these really well!
- Brandywine – An Heirloom, and another big tomato, but better tasting.
Here are my directions for planting tomatoes in containers. (Note: The directions are the same for planting tomatoes in the ground, just start the process from the *.)
1. Add potting soil to the container to about 2″ from the top. From the center of the container, *scoop out some dirt to make a hole big enough for the dirt and root ball of the plant. You should only plant one tomato plant per 14” or larger container.
2. Take the plant out of its original pot and loosen the roots by gently scratching the root ball.
3. Remove or cut the branches from the bottom half of the stem and make sure the seedlings are planted deep enough, at least halfway up the stem. Roots will grow from the stem under the soil, which will result in a stronger plant. Make sure the top half, the part above the soil, still has branches with leaves on it.
4. Water your plant thoroughly. Be sure to water the soil, not the top of the plant. Continue to keep your tomato plant moist, not soggy.
5. Fertilize your tomato plant now and every two weeks thereafter.
6. Stake or place a Tomato Cage around your plant. Check the plant tag for the height the plant will eventually be. This will help you to choose the size of stake or cage. To secure the plants as they grow, I use Adjustable Plant Ties, Stretch Ties, or Plant Clips.
7. To protect the tender stems from cutworms, place a “collar” around the tender stems 2″ to 3″ from the bottom. You will only need this until their stems get thicker and stronger. You can use strips of cardboard, paper cups with the bottom cut out, etc.
8. To remind you of what you planted, don’t throw away the plant tag! Stick it in the soil next to the plant. Voila!
Frost Alert! For my area, the Northeast, the last day for the chance of frost usually decides when it’s safe to go into the garden to plant. This year it’s May 2nd. Now, that’s not to say that the plants will be safe even then. There is always a chance of a freak frost happening, so be sure to protect and cover your tender plants on those cold nights. Check the Old Farmer’s Almanac for the last frost dates for your area.
Andiamo in giardino! Lets’s go in the garden!