Column: Growing perfect tomatoes
Commentary by Noah Herron
Now is the time to start your tomato seeds indoors. As a gardener this is probably the most exciting time of the year. You get a fresh beginning to what is going to be a great season. Well at least we hope so.
Most tomato varieties can be grown in our area so choose varieties that works best for your family. Beefsteak, Cherry, Sauce, Canning, etc. … Once you have the seeds you’re ready to plant. Use a soilless mix to start your seedlings. The seed itself provides enough nutrients for the seedling during this period. Any extra nutrients will make the tomatoes grow too fast and get lengthy. After six weeks of growth your tomato transplants will be ready for the outdoors. At this stage your plants need a slow release, organic fertilizer (5-5-5). This will promote healthy foliage growth to help protect your fruit. Select a location with good drainage and full sun. Always make sure to weather any plants that have been growing indoors. Do this by slowly introducing them to the outdoor elements over a weeks’ time.
Now that your tomatoes are outdoors make sure your soil stays moist but allow for it to almost dry out before watering again. Over watering can introduce diseases and wilt. Under watering can put unwanted stress and crack your tomatoes. When fruit begins to set you’ll need to add a side dressing of fertilizer (2-3-1) and then again at two weeks after first picking, and lastly at six weeks after first picking. Switching to a lower nitrogen fertilizer will help tomato growth and not foliage. This fertilizer is very important to promote large, healthy tomatoes!
My favorite heirloom tomatoes are Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Golden Jubilee, Marglobe Supreme, Roma, Black Krim and Mortgage Lifter.
Noah Herron is owner of Urban Farmer Garden Center, 4105 W. Ind. 32, Westfield. To contact Herron, call 600-2807 or visit www.ufseeds.com.