Arts & Entertainment

Garden Time: I Say Tomato

As I write this it is 65 degrees and drizzling outside. It is hard to imagine that in a couple of weeks the heat will return and we will begin our typically hot and humid summers. And that means tomatoes. So why am I talking tomato in May you may ask? Because we must get ready for those heat lovers now.

As I write this it is 65 degrees and drizzling outside. It is hard to imagine that in a couple of weeks the heat will return and we will begin our typically hot and humid summers. And that means tomatoes. So why am I talking tomato in May you may ask? Because we must get ready for those heat lovers now.

Tomatoes are the one vegetable (or fruit if you want to get picky) that is most commonly grown in American gardens. With enough sun and heat, tomatoes can grow anywhere; in gardens, pots on a patio or balcony, even hanging pots. There are so many varieties including heirlooms that it is difficult to choose which one to grow. In addition to considering the size and flavor of the fruit you like, read the tag on the plant carefully so you know how tall or sprawling the plant will be and how large and what color the final tomato is. Grape and cherry tomatoes sprawl, cages may work for them, large heavy beefsteak types need strong supports, a strong stake or even a fence will work. It is best to put the stake in when you plant so as to avoid stabbing the root structure later. Also check the “how many days to maturity” information on the label. You don’t want all of your lovely tomatoes ripening while you are away on vacation (although the squirrels will be happy). I love Cherokee purple tomatoes, an heirloom variety readily available, but they always seem to ripen for me just as fall weather hits.

Tomatoes need heat, sun and water. When the weather reaches a steady heat, be sure to water the tomatoes evenly. That means don’t let them dry out for a week and then drown them. This leads to cracked tomatoes and possibly blossom end rot, a disease that causes black spots on the blossom end. Keep track of rainfall and try to give them a steady supply of water, but not too much so that they are always soggy, once or twice every week in regular hot weather, every other day in hot drought conditions. Tomatoes grown in pots will require a bit more watering since the pot loses moisture faster than the ground. Don’t crowd them, air flow is important to diminish the spread of fungus. Also, begin cutting or pinching off the suckers, the small shoots that grow out from the angle between the main stalk and leaf stalks. This reduces sprawl and gives more fruit.

Besides a resident toad or chicken to eat insect pests, borage is supposed to repel some pests of the tomato plant. Borage is an annual herb with pretty blue flowers and is a great addition to salads. It has a light cucumber taste. Marigolds and basil are also said to help repel tomato pests.

Don’t start boiling the pasta for the tomatoes just yet, but do prepare so that your tomato harvest will be one of the best you have ever had.

Gardening Tip: Do those upside down hanging pots really work? Despite the fact that some of the claims infomercials make for these pots defy the laws of physics, they will grow tomatoes. A few caveats: 1) They lose moisture very quickly, may have to be watered every day, 2) Must use plants that are at least 8 inches high when planted, 3) Use type of tomato that will not grow too large 4) Use very good soil and must fertilize every month. Bottom line is that they save space and the tomatoes ripen a bit sooner, but not as prolific as growing in the ground.

Ruth Kling is a resident of Falls Church. Got gardening questions? Check out Ruth’s Garden Blog at ruthsgarden.blogspot.com.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*