- Author: Heidi Aufdermaur
Fruit or vegetable, there is no doubt to the popularity of the home-grown tomato, picked fresh off the vine and appreciated for its tasty flavor, health benefits and beauty. Growing heirloom tomatoes has recently become more popular, with the various colors, shapes, and sizes.
The first year I started my tomatoes from seed, I was not sure how many seeds would germinate. I planted 3-4 seeds in each cell. To my surprise, most of them grew. I was challenged to thin them and keep the most vigorous ones, so I transplanted most of them into their own cell and grew about 450 tomato plants. I was very popular that year with co-workers and family as I shared the bounty.
Tomato plants are also an easy plant to grow in containers. The important thing to remember when choosing a tomato plant is its growth habit. The two growth habits are determinate and indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes grow to 3-5' tall, set fruit within 4-6 weeks and then begin to decline. They are a great choice for container gardening. Indeterminate tomatoes are more like a vine, as they grow, flower, and set fruit the entire season. They need a sturdy support and grow best in the ground. For more information about growing this tasty produce, join the UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener presentation, ‘Tips for Terrific Tomatoes” on April 20.
Where*: On Zoom. You will receive a link the morning of the class.
When: Tuesday, April 20, 2021 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Register at: http://ucanr.edu/tomato/tips2021
Master Gardener Instructors: Heidi Aufdermaur & Terry Harper
- Author: Anne E Schellman
March 20 is the first day of spring for 2021. After this date, there is less of a chance of frost which can damage vegetable plants like tomatoes. Many vegetables prefer warm soil temperatures, and may “sulk” during cool weather.
You don't have to plant early to get the first tomato in your neighborhood. Many vegetables work well planted in April and still have plenty of time to produce.
We hope you will join our Master Gardeners for an evening talking all about how to have a successful vegetable garden.
Where*: On Zoom. You will receive a link the morning of the class.
When: Tuesday, March 23, 2021 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Register at: http://ucanr.edu/spring/veg/gardening/2021
Instructors: Heidi Aufdermaur & Johnny Mullins
- Author: Anne E Schellman
In August we featured an article by former Environmental Horticulture Advisor, Ed Perry, called "Save the Right Seeds."
This article discussed how to successfully choose which vegetable seeds to save to plant in your garden next year.
Now, we wanted to follow up with tips for how to save your chosen seeds. Master Gardeners Royce Rhoads and Heidi Aufdermaur taught this class last year, and plan to teach it again in 2021.
Here is a list of items to gather. Most likely you already have most of them:
-Marker and masking tape
-Knife and spoon
-Jars and rings; or just use paper cups
-Paper towels or cheesecloth
-Fine mesh or strainer
-Paper plates for drying
Most people save tomato seeds, so let's go over the steps to save them. Tomato seeds have a gooey covering over them that needs to be removed first.
Allowing the seeds to sit in water lets “good” bacteria break down that covering. The empty seeds will float and you can skim them off. The seeds you want are at the bottom of the jar.
Step 1: Label the outside of your jar with masking tape and a permanent marker.
Step 2: Cut tomato, scoop out seeds & put into jar.
Step 3: Fill your jar, with the seeds in it, 1/2 full of water. Cover with paper towel/cheesecloth.
Step 4: Two days later, skim off floating seeds and remove.
Step 5: Wait a few more days until a film forms on the surface (fermentation* process).
Step 6: Strain the pulp through a screen until seeds separate. Spread onto labeled plate until dry for a few days.
Step 7: Label a paper mailing envelope and add seeds. Make sure to include the date.
Your seeds can last up to 4 years if stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Did you save any seeds using this post? If so, please tell us how you did in the comments below!
Vegetables such as peppers, eggplants, and melons are much easier to save than tomato seeds. Just remove and spread them out to dry. Squash seeds are also easy, but may need a little bit of cleaning by straining and rinsing with water.
- Author: Rho Yare
The tomato, commonly called a vegetable, is a fruit botanically, and hard to believe but the tomato was the center of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Nix vs. Hedden. Now, this is a fascinating bit of historical trivia. In the 1800's there was a tariff that put a tax on imported vegetables. Well, a business owner in New York City named John Nix wasn't too happy about this. He sued Edward Hedden, the “Collector of the Port of NYC” (tax collector). Mr. Nix declared that since tomatoes are a fruit, he was owed back taxes.
In Stanislaus County from early July and for months afterward, you'll see tomato truck gondolas on the road 24 hours a day filled with red, ripe tomatoes rushing to processors. We have perfect tomato growing conditions.
A tomato is not too picky. That's another reason it's so popular to grow. All that is required is at least 6 hours of sun a day, an area (container or ground) with some soil, a support of some type, some water, some fertilizer, and a little love.
If you are a container/patio gardener, look on the label or tag for the term “determinate,” as these plants work best in containers. Also, anything named patio or pixie. Cherry tomato varieties are indeterminate but work great in a container. Use at least a 5-gallon bucket-sized container (with holes in the bottom). Your plant will need some support, but not as much as the indeterminate varieties.
To ensure your plant is planted correctly, make your hole as wide and deep as the root ball of the plant. This is the area of soil and roots that you remove from the original container. The cool thing about tomatoes is you can plant them as deep as you need to if they are leggy.
To plant, carefully remove the root ball, and gently loosen the root mass and with gardening clippers or scissors remove lower branches. You are going to plant about 1/3 of the green plant below the soil. Gently pat the soil around the plant . Don't forget to place your support around or next to the plant now so you don't forget. Water gently and stand back and admire your gardening expertise. And imagine those delicious tomatoes gracing your salad, sandwich, or as I like to do, eat them out of my hand with a few napkins to catch the juice.
I hope you plant at least one tomato plant this season and send us pictures of your successes to email@example.com. Happy gardening and enjoy those dirty hands.
Be sure to join Rho on Wednesday, April 15 at 6 p.m. for Spring Container Vegetable Gardening. Sign up on our class website at https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/Classes/
- Author: Julie Silva
Tomatoes come in many different sizes–from pea-size to almost 3 pounds and as large as a grapefruit! Different sizes fulfill different needs; cherry tomatoes are perfect for salads, omelets, kebobs, and snacking. Medium size round tomatoes are easier to use for canning. Oblong, meaty tomatoes with less moisture are perfect for sauces, paste, or salsa. Large tomatoes, referred to as slicing tomatoes, are your hamburger's best friend.
You can find many different colors of tomatoes, including red, pink, black, purple, orange, yellow, green, yellow-white, swirls, and striped. Sometimes when sliced, the tomato could take on another color completely!
When deciding which tomato to grow it helps to decipher the tag. Tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes grow to a particular height, then stop and put on a majority of fruit all at once. Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow and will produce tomatoes along the branches throughout the growing season. It's usually best to grow both types.
You'll notice on plant tags some capital letters after the tomato variety name. Those letters indicate the tomato's resistance to a particular disease. You can read about these diseases as well as disorders and pests of tomatoes on the UC IPM Tomatoes page.
- V Verticillium Wilt
- F Fusarium Wilt
- N Nematodes
- ASC Alternaria Stem Canker
- TMV Tobacco Mosaic Virus
- ST Stemphylium (Grey leaf spot)
- SWV Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
- LB Late Blight
Many hybrid tomatoes carry the VFN designation, unless they are heirlooms. Hybrid tomatoes are grown by crossing varieties to improve traits, making them stronger, more disease resistant and better producers. However, if you plant the seeds from a hybrid tomato, they won't produce the same tomato. This is why many people like to grow heirloom tomatoes and save the seeds for the following year.
To find the top ten tomatoes, be prepared to discover many lists. Opinions are like tomatoes: everyone has a favorite of their own! One of the most popular cherry tomatoes is ‘Sun Gold'; it's considered the sweetest tomato. The favorite early-season tomato is ‘Early Girl,' which is a determinate that produces within 54 days from seed. For main season tomatoes, ‘Celebrity,' ‘Fantastic,' ‘Better Boy,' and ‘Ace' (70-80 days) are popular.
Summer for many people just does not start until that first hamburger with a slab of tomato right out of the garden. Here at the UCCE Stanislaus Master Gardener's Office we are curious: have you planted your tomato plants yet? What's your favorite tomato variety? Please sign in and post your comments below, or on our Facebook page.
Special thanks to Julie Silva for this guest post. She is a UCCE Master Gardener in Tuolumne County.