In Georgia, many folks consider planting tomatoes as a must. If they do not have a few tomato plants in the garden, the garden would be missing something. I will admit it, as a boy I was not a fan of the vine ripen tomato. Sorry, I just wasn’t.
As I matured and I guess got in the right state-of-mind, I love have a fresh sliced tomato on a burger or a sandwich. I will be sharing information from a UGA publication by Bob Westerfield. Bob is normally my go to specialist for some of our tricky vegetable gardening questions.
When planting tomatoes, you have to decide what variety or varieties you want to try. Some folks have planted the same varieties year after year. I think a lot of the planting is based on tradition or based on what is expected in that family. The Bowman’s will plant Better Boys. You may start a family disagreement if you change up varieties. I say every once in a while plant some of the new varieties.
Tomatoes come in different shapes, sizes and even colors. Think about what are your goals or needs with the harvested tomatoes. Tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate varieties.
Determinate varieties produce most of their fruit at one time. The determinate varieties are in a more compact bush form and are done in like 2-5 harvests. These varieties are good for folks that do a lot of canning.
Indeterminate varieties are the ones that set fruit clusters along a vine and will grow all season. If the plants stay in good shape, they can produce up to frost. According to Westerfield, bush varieties do best if staked or grown in cages, but the vine types must be given support.
One of those loaded questions I receive is on last frost date. We can go back to historical data, but for the most part, the middle of April is about when we think we have seen the last of the frost until fall.
As you know, weather can be unpredictable. I still remember the week plus freezing temperatures back in 2007. You can set out transplants in late April, miss the chance of cold damage and get a wonderful tomato crop.
We will have a lot of store options for plant purchases soon. You may want to check with your store of preference and ask about varieties they plan on having in stock. Now some folks like to
grow their own plants. If starting from seed, buy you seed and start indoors at least 4-7 weeks before they are to be planted outside. Do your research if you want to grow your own plants from seed.
In general, tomato plants need a place that will get 6-8 hours of sunlight. They tend to perform better in areas that have an adequate soil pH in the 6.2 to 6.8 range. In our area this can be a problem since we have a lot of ground that is more acidic. I would do a soil test every 2-3 years to get an accurate pH reading plus a detailed fertilization plan. All gardens need to be in well-drained soils and tomatoes like areas with good organic matter.
Remember that I said that you need to plant tomatoes in areas that get lots of sunlight. This is the case for all gardens, but another point to think about is irrigation.
You need to be close to a well or have a sensible distance to run a water hose to the garden. Do not depend on rainfall to do all the irrigation for you. Tomatoes need one to two inches of water per week. I suggest purchasing a rain gauge so you can keep records of rainfall amounts and then supplement when needed.
In absence of rainfall, you can water one to two times per week. Watering needs to be good soaks instead of a lot of short irrigations. Soaker hoses and irrigation tapes work great. You need to keep the plants dry so stay away from sprinklers. You are trying to wet the roots and not the foliage.
A major mistake of growers is turning on a sprinkler in late afternoons and totally wetting the plant. When you wet the plant in late afternoon, the plant is going to stay damp until the sun dries the plant the next day. This extended wet time for the plant along with our heat and humidity can lead to a perfect disease environment. You are better off watering in the early morning so any wet foliage will dry quickly.
For more information contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email email@example.com.