A colorful way of living, more of us are adding purple to our diets like eggplant, beets, purple potatoes, blueberries. We dream of the past when fast food and drive up windows were not an everyday occurrence. Eating outdoor food outdoors instead of something in a paper container that messes up our car. Know your food and grow your own. If someone decides to eat healthier and know their food they often start with tomatoes and peppers. Tomatoes and peppers are the gateway drug to gardening. Have success with them and soon you’ll be hooked trying to grow everything from cucumbers to cilantro.
So what is a tomato….a vegetable or a fruit? You say tomato and I say “tom-ahhh-to. It depends on your point of view and could be both. A nutritionist might consider a tomato to be a vegetable. Botanically, a botanist would say fruit is a ripened flower ovary and contains seeds just like a tomato. Fruit tends to conjure up a flavor of sweet and juicy. A vegetable is something more saucy and not so high in fructose. Those who love a vine ripened tomato fresh off the garden vine would argue that it’s not sweet. So whether right or wrong I will choose to consider both a fruit and a vegetable to be correct…..besides these argued opinions tend to be here today and gone tomato.
If trying a few tomatoes remember to look at the tag of the tomato plant you are buying. You will see somewhere on the tag it will tell you if the plant is indeterminate, determinate, or semi determinate. This has nothing to do with the plants determination to succeed. An indeterminate tomato will grow large and not set a terminal bud meaning that if it didn’t freeze come October it would keep growing to the size of a very large shrub! These are best planted in the ground with good plant supports to hold them up and allow sunlight and air movement around the plants. A determinate tomato however does set terminal buds so they stay at a more manageable size making them perfect for container growing. A semi-determinate tomato is obviously somewhere between the two in size, needing support but can be grown in large containers or in the ground. With any container gardening remember to make sure that plenty of room is available in the pot for root growth and stability. They’re going to grow!
To grow great tomatoes make sure you have a good sunny spot and have prepared the soil with lots of organic matter. Tomatoes like a moist well drained soil and if the soil gets dry between watering you are likely to have cracking and zippering of the fruit. They also like a boost of calcium to avoid blossom end rot on the fruit so look for a fertilizer that has micro nutrients including calcium. I like to use a complete fertilizer with major and minor nutrients working it into the soil at the time of planting and then top dress again during the growing season.
Another way to ensure good moisture availability is to deep plant your tomatoes when you put them in the ground. You will see the main stem above the soil line on the young plants is “hairy” in nature. Roots will grow from that stem if planted deeper. Pluck off a few bottom leaves and plant the tomato plant deeper than the existing soil surface in the pot. This will increase the depth of the roots searching for moisture and nutrients. For those adventurous or involved in a tomato growing contest you could also add some mycorrhiza from the Greek mykos meaning fungus and riz meaning roots. This involves a symbiotic loving relationship between a naturally occurring fungus and the roots which extends the roots adventitiously into the soil profile to maximize their reach.