Tomatoes Everything you ever wanted to know about growing tomatoes Janna Anderson
There are literally thousands of varieties of tomatoes to choose from. Sometimes handed down from generation to generation, to seed saver exchanges and small grower hybrids, the possibilities are just endless. Difficulties or success growing tomatoes often start in the selection process of varieties that do well in your climate. The shorter the day to maturity also means a smaller tomato. Selecting a variety
Hybrid vs. Heirlooms Hybrid Varieties • Commonly confused with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) • Created by cross pollinating two types of tomatoes • Hybrids are designed to have more disease resistance, better taste or longer shelf life Heirlooms • Traditional “saver” type of tomatoes • Seed can be dried and kept from year to year with a predictable offspring like the parents • Generally believed to have better taste but a short shelf life and sometimes are very ugly and difficult to grow!
As you can see from the chart, the type of tomatoes you plant can have a huge relation on what yield you may have. Certain tomatoes grow much larger or smaller dependent on the varieties for example, Brandywines are large and Dr. Wyche’s yellow are usually smaller around 4 to 8 oz. each. There is a correlation to size, our short seasons, and the success you have.
Timing is Everything! Since timing will make or break you with tomatoes, what you need to know is that our last frost date in Phoenix is March 15th. It typically goes over 90 degrees routinely in May, and since tomatoes freeze, they cannot go out before March 15th unless protected and must set fruit before May, since tomatoes cannot pollinate in hot weather.
What that means to you! When someone says “we have short seasons here,” they are referring to the short period of time before it gets so hot crops don’t grow well. When selecting tomato varieties, the days it takes to maturity should be less than 78 for a good crop. Any more than that, and the crop will likely just take up space for the summer, growing only leaves and no fruit. It will pick up in the fall when nights get cooler and sometimes you will get a second crop.
Getting Started Select transplants with dark green color Look for a shorter, sturdy stem Check under leaves for bugs or damage Look at bottom of pot for roots sticking out Get a plant smaller than the pot to avoid root bound transplants Try to find how it was grown, and if it is hardened off or needs extra protection from the sun Talk to your grower about varieties
Traditionally, we all think to add compost and maybe manure, but for a reliable tomato with the best flavor and heat resistance, plain old dirt is the best thing you can start with. AZ native soil is high in micronutrients and minerals simply not found in a commercial potting mix. Add no more than 1/3 of compost or manure to the planting hole. Plant the tomato stem into the ground so the top is all that is exposed, then water deeply. GOT DIRT?
Now that you have successfully transplanted your tomatoes, you can sit back and watch them grow. Watering should be done only when the dirt is dry more than an inch below the surface. Dirt in AZ looks dry, but has a nice layer holding in the moisture below, so check before watering, then deep water-being careful not to splash the leaves! Watch them grow!
Now comes the waiting, the hardest part. Watching the tomatoes carefully for the first sign of a tomato baby. If the weather is over 90 degrees, you might try to shade the plants with light shade cloth. This will help keep them cooler. Mulching carefully around the plants will conserve water and keep the soil cooler. Don’t overwater! Weeds are good sources of water conservation!
With a little luck and a bit of work, the day will finally come when you see the first tomatoes turning a rosy red! Easy recipe: Mix about 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. It is ok to marinade it for a few minutes. Finally the day comes