T for Tomatoes

T for tomatoes … freshly picked from the garden … mouth watering … delicious … red … yellow … orange … big … small.

Tomatoes are always referred to as vegetables yet they  are an edible fruit that belong to the nightshade family.  They are a great source of vitamins and minerals and a  source of lycopene.

I can’t image my garden without tomatoes.  I don’t grow them from seed as many gardeners do as I don’t have a good enough spot in the house to get them started.  I’ve tried and the seedling always get long and spindly reaching for some sun.  So I buy my started plants from the garden centre.  There are many different varieties and everyone has their favourite.  I prefer the small cherry tomatoes or pear tomatoes, perfect for plucking from the plant and popping into your mouth.

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Towards the end of May it gets warm enough to plant them outside.  Remember that I live in Ontario, Canada and my growing zone is 5b Canadian, so planting time may differ for where you live.   If I’ve purchased them earlier than that I start to transition them outside when the days are warmer and bring them back inside or put them in the garage on the cool evening.

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I grow my veggies in large containers and they reside on the plant tables, one plant per pot.  Think outside the pot when planting your tomatoes as all sorts of big containers work … storage totes, recycle bins, old metal containers and more.  They prefer a bright sunny spot with at least 10 hours of light.  When planting into the ground or a pot, plant up to the first set of leaves.  This encourages more roots and more roots lead to more tomatoes.  Remove any sucker shoots that appear between the branch and the stem with a pinch of your fingers.

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Towards the beginning of June the little yellow blooms start to appear.  From each bloom a small green tomato will start to form.  Give them a good soaking of water about every 5 days.  In extreme heat water a bit more frequently.  Be sure to water onto the soil and not on the leaves of the plant.

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Every day after the green tomatoes form I check for any changes of ripening.  The plants need some sort of staking, either big tomato cages or big stakes into the ground.  I like to put the cages and/or stakes into the pots when I transplant the little plants, that way there is less damage to the roots (which could happen if you do it later).

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Just look how the plants have grown by mid July.  Towards the end of the season if the plant gets too big I remove the bottom branches if they don’t have any fruit on them, to encourage the top tomatoes to grow and ripen.  I very often plant companion plants in the corners of the pots.  One year I did peas, another onions, and even marigolds which help deter bugs.

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… getting closer to picking …

Don’t let the tomatoes totally ripen on the plant.  Picking a bit early and storing in a bowl will finish off the ripening process.  Never put tomatoes in a sunny window to ripen as this may cause them to rot.  Fresh tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator either, this can spoil the texture and the flavour, instead keep them in a bowl on the counter.

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Can you taste the sweet goodness?  I’m so looking forward to tomato season.

It’s time for Alphabe-Thursday and the letter this week is T.  T for tomatoes.

 More from The Gardener Side

plants … seed info … veggies & herbs … bulbs, corms, tubers

the gardens  … whimsy in the garden … garden printables

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