Let’s take a look at one of our favorite vegetables – tomatoes. The difficulty here is choosing from the hundreds of varieties available. We like varieties that are referred to as indeterminate. Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing and getting taller, setting more flowers followed by fruit all summer long. Determinate varieties differ in that as soon as they flower and set “fruit” they stop growing. They are not heavy producers, but the tomato quality is outstanding. Consult a handout or a chart to see whether the variety you are considering is determinate or indeterminate.
Another type of tomato that has become increasingly popular is the heirloom tomato. Heirloom varieties are disease resistant and produce some of the tastiest fruit you have ever eaten. These tomatoes have been grown and passed down from generation to generation over many years. They have proven themselves in the areas they are grown.
Some of the problems encountered with tomatoes results from planting tomatoes too early in the spring when the soil is still cool. Blossom end rot is a problem that develops in the tomato plant when calcium, one of the important nutrients in plants, is not able to be absorbed from the soil by the tomato plant. This condition occurs when soil temperatures are too cold and the plant is not able to take up this important element. What we see as a result of this situation is our first tomatoes of the season – those we cherish most – have a rather large black spot on the bottom end of the tomato. This is a result of a lack of calcium available when the tomato is forming. This physiological condition does not affect the flavor of the tomato and the tomatoes are still edible. If this condition occurs later in the season, it is likely due to an uneven moisture supply, going from one extreme to the other- wet to dry. Try to maintain an even moisture level. This is more common when growing tomatoes in containers.
If you haven’t had your soil tested in the past couple of years, there is a possibility that there may be a calcium deficiency in your garden soils. A deficiency can be corrected by adding gypsum to your soil. Lime is another good source of calcium, but not usually recommended for our area because of the normally high pH in our soils, unless soil tests indicate that this is recommended.
Kick off your growing season by planting several different varieties of tomatoes you haven’t tried before, or stand by your personal favorite. Be sure to plant some of the Sweet Million cherry tomatoes, they taste like candy.
Have a fun spring!