This April, the Farmer D Blog is dedicated to all things tomato! Tomatoes are a Georgia favorite for spring and summer farms and gardens. Not only do we have a long growing season for them, but there are tons of varieties to choose from. Whether you are looking for cherry tomatoes as a snack, or paste tomatoes to make delicious marinara sauces, growing tomatoes is a move in the right direction!
General Growing Tips
Tomatoes prefer loamy soils, full-sun, and a lot of depth to extend their roots. In order to provide the depth they need, we recommend that you plant your tomatoes in a raised garden bed as opposed to in a planter. You could also plant your tomatoes in a large pot or tomato bag, so long as you have 24”-30” of depth for them to grow. When putting your tomatoes in the ground, plant them deeply, such that ⅔ of the plant is actually underneath the soil. All of the tiny hairs on the stem will shoot out as roots and will ensure a healthy, strong, and fruitful plant. “Full sun” refers to at least six unfiltered and direct hours of sunlight per day. When it comes to whether or not to stake your tomato plants, we suggest that you stake them or provide some structure to support the vertical growth of the plant. This saves space in your garden bed and prevents the spread of disease to your plants’ stems, leaves, and fruit!
Heirloom Vs. Open Pollinated Vs. Hybrid
“Heirloom” refers to a seed a variety that existed before 1940 and was passed down through the generations. Heirloom tomatoes often have distinct and funky shapes and add character to any garden. However, they generally don’t produce as much fruit as your open-pollinated or hybrid varieties. “Open-pollinated” refers to when a seed’s pollination occurred by natural mechanisms, i.e. by insect, bird, wind, or humans. Open-pollinated plants are more genetically diverse and adapt to local growing conditions over time. Lastly, there are “hybrid” seeds which refers to seeds that are intentionally crossed by humans in a controlled environment to breed a desired trait. Hybrid seeds are known to be very prolific.
What’s great about all three of these seed populations is that they can each be organically certified and naturally-grown. It’s truly a matter of finding the seeds’ tastes, colors, and textures that you enjoy most!
Determinate vs. Indeterminate vs. Compact
Another important distinction between tomato plants is determinate vs. indeterminate vs. compact varieties. A determinate variety will grow to a specific height and will only fruit for a set period of time. After that growth stage has been reached, you will find your determinate tomato plant fruiting less and becoming more susceptible to rot and disease. Determinate varieties are great if you know that you will only be able to tend to your garden for a couple of months rather than for the entire growing season. Indeterminate varieties will grow taller than most determinate varieties and will produce fruit for the entire growing season (early-summer to late-fall.) The last option refers to our compact varieties. As the best of both worlds – these compact plants only grow to be a couple of feet tall (similar to determinate varieties) but will fruit throughout the entire season (like the indeterminate varieties!)
As you can tell, there are many many options for growing tomatoes in your garden this year! If you’re new to planting tomatoes, come by Farmer D Organics Garden Center and we can help you pick out some tomato varieties that will work well for you. And if you’re a seasoned gardener, maybe this could be the year to try something new!