There are around 7500 different varieties of tomatos, each grown for various purposes. As heirloom tomatoes become increasingly popular with home gardeners, it's no wonder the tomato is the most popular garden vegetable crop.
Tomatoes Need at Least 8 Hours of Direct Sunshine Daily
Compact varieties are a great choice for container gardens and
Starting Tomato Seeds
Start: Seeds or Seedlings
Germination: 6 to 12 days, 60 to 95 degrees Fahreinheit
Seed Life: 4 years
Soil: Well Drained
Sunlight: Full Sun
Seeds: 1/8" deep in flats
Seedlings: 12" to 36" apart
Days to Harvest: 65 to 80 days
Buy a Tomato Plant If You're a Beginner Gardener
Tomatoes can be difficult to start from seed, if you can purchase plants it's easier.
If you attempt to start tomatoes from seeds, make sure they get the sunlight required. Typically a south-facing window is hardly adequate. You can always supplement sunlight with a grow light. Sow your seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before you plan on transplanting the tomato seedling to your garden. Plant them 1/8" deep in sterile seed starting mix in flats or seed pots. Learn how to make your own recycled newspaper seed pot (Create a Seed-Starting Pot from Recycled Newspaper). Tomato seeds germinate best at 75 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ready to Transplant Your Tomato Seedlings
Wait at least a week or two after the last frost, because cold soil and air temperatures can stress your new tomato plant. You want to have nighttime temperatures consistently above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. You can help harden and prevent stress by reducing water and fertilizer before transplanting your tomato seedling.
Space transplants 12 to 24 inches apart for determinate varieties, 14 to 20 inches apart for staked indeterminate varieties, and 24 to 26 inches apart for unstaked indeterminate varieties.
Tomatoes will do better when planted deeper in comparision to containers. Set them in the ground so the soil level is just below the lowest leaves to help establish a stronger root system. You'll need to mulch your tomato plants to keep in soil moisture and warmth. Tomatoes need a constant supply of moisture.
Staking tomatoes can be labor intensive, while letting your plant sprawl might not look like you want. Try growing tomatoes in cages as a nice compromise. Anchor your cage with stakes.
If You Want to Save Your Tomato Seeds, Beware of Cross-Polination
You'll need to plant various tomato plants farther from each other if you plan on keeping your seeds for the next season. To be absolutely sure that tomato plants do not cross-pollinate you'll need to take an active position. Provide a physical barrier to prevent foreign pollen from being introduced. A home gardening technique used is called "bagging." You'll need to "bag" the tomato plant before the blossoms open. Unfortunately this can cause less fruit to ripen. Or if you have the space you can isolate tomato varieties by 20 to 25 feet.
If you're not planning to keep the seeds, don't worry. Cross-polination will affect the seeds and future generations. Cross-pollination of tomato varieties will not affect the current look or flavor.
Harvesting Tomatoes for Rich Flavor
If you harvest tomatoes when they are in the green mature stage the flavor will not be as rich or good. Try to pick fruts when they are firm, full size, and fully colored. You'll enjoy a much fuller flavor. However, many cherry tomatoes will crack when they stay on the plant. These varieties you can pick slightly before they reach fully grown or at their peak of redness. To tell if the tomato is ripe, look at the bottom of the tomato as heirloom varieties have a tendency to ripen before the full color shows.
Remove all new flower clusters, or simple cut off the top of the plant, about a month before the first expected frost. This will aid your tomatos to ripen fully instead of spending resources in creating new tomatoes that will not ripen before the frost.
Tomato Lover's Pack of Seeds from Heirloom Organics
Heirloom Brandywine - The standard for flavor. Yields a heavy crop of firm, clear skinned, light rosy pink fruits on plants with potato like leaves.
Cherokee Purple - A unique brick red color with a rose/purple skin color. A very sweet and rich tomato flavor.
Green Zebra - Often on the top ten lists for flavor, these tomatoes produce a green color, with cream/yellow spots and stripes.
Rutgers - Delicious in salads and unsurpassed for home canning, these tomatoes offer a superior flavor and are highly productive.
Roma - A plum tomato with a meaty texture available in red or yellow. A good sauce tomato, or canning.
Tomatillo Verde - With fruit the size of large cherry tomatoes, these tomatoes are covered with an easy-to-remove brown papery husk. Unpeel these tomatoes to reveal a dark green smooth skin.
Yellow Plum - A very old variety. Mild and sweet tomatoes, these are very productive and there are typically 8 to 10 fruits per