Tomatoes have to be one of our favorite fruits in the garden. I grow a lot every year, usually between thirty and fifty plants. This year we have five varieties growing on fifty-five plants. We’ll have big slicing tomatoes, meaty paste tomatoes, smaller salad tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. It’s a lovely abundance when it comes in and right now, there are lots of little green tomatoes on the vines.
We start our tomatoes inside the house in early February and nurse those little seedlings along until the weather warms up enough for these heat loving plants. We use grow lights to help them along and watch them carefully – dreaming of summer goodness to come. They grow like weeds and are so prolific. Once they start to ripen, I’ll harvest between ten and twenty a day. I’ve been known to come in from the garden and immediately start a pot full cooking down on the stove to make sauce for that nights dinner. You really can’t get any fresher spaghetti sauce than that!
I’ve had problems over the years with sprawling tomato vines everywhere under foot in the garden. I’ve tried tomato cages and watched the vines escape. I’ve used fencing and tried tying them. I understand that I will never have a neat and tidy garden.. they grow! But still, I didn't want this:
If left by themselves, tomatoes will just spread everywhere, they are a vine, after all. If you leave them alone and not prune them, they get very leafy when we want them to get very fruity, instead. By removing excess foliage, we encourage the plant to put it's energy into the growing tomato.
Last year, I tried three different methods of staking tomatoes and one worked. I tie a piece of twine to the very bottom of the vine and then prune the tomato. Once pruned, I carefully twist the vine around the twine and then tie it off at the top of a tall trellis. Our trellises are around five feet tall.
I prune the tomatoes pretty severely. I want only one central vine, so I cut off any side vines and I also prune out the suckers that grow from between every branch. I also take off any branches where the leaves touch the ground. I’ve found that tomato blight can start from the ground up.
I’m careful not to wrap my twine around any of the flower stalks or growing fruits or to put the twine where it’s likely rub the flowers in the wind. I don't want anything damaging those tender young babies.
Once a tomato is pruned and twisted into it's string, it's pretty secure. I might have to replace the twine or reinforce it over the summer but for now, it's holding up just fine. Those heavy tomato vines are up off the ground and thriving. I have to work the tomatoes weekly and I'll have to harvest ripe tomatoes every day when they start blushing up.
We have our tomatoes in three difference places in our gardens – we have 48 out in the main market garden – Roma’s, Ace and Blushing Pinks. We planted 4 yellow plum tomatoes in the Southwestern Garden and 3 cherry tomatoes out in the Basil Garden. Those vines are tied off to our deck.
It’s nice to be able to just grab salad tomatoes for the table and cherry tomatoes to munch right off the vine just outside our backdoor. A special tasty goody is to wrap a basil leaf around a cherry tomato and pop them directly in your mouth for a sweet tart flavor that beats out anything you might buy in the grocery store. No matter how you prepare them, home grown tomatoes are the tastiest addition to your pantry.
What are you growing in your garden?