Q.  What is the best soil for growing tomatoes?

A.  Tomatoes need a deep fertile soil that is rich in organic matter and drains well.  Soil should not be too high in nitrogen, as this will result in lots of green growth but poor fruit production. I have had outstanding results enriching my soil by adding a dose of Great Big Tomatoes Natural Compost Extract to the soil every other week during the growing season.

 TOMATO-TRANSPLANTQ.  How do I choose a good plant at the nursery?

A.  The best plants for transplanting success have a dark green color and a thick sturdy main stem.  They should be about six inches high with no open flowers and no fruit.  Avoid tall “leggy” plants and check for insect infestation.

Q.  On the plant label or seed packet, what does “determinate” mean?

A.  Determinate plants grow to a certain height and then stop.  They are usually smaller and don’t need staking.  Harvest time is short, as all the fruit develops at the same time.  Blossoms are on the ends of branches.  Determinate varieties are well-suited for growing in containers.

Q.  Then, what does “indeterminate” mean?

A.  Indeterminate plants continue to grow in height throughout the season and provide an extended harvest.  Blossoms develop all along the branches.  The majority of tomato varieties are indeterminate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAQ.  What does the number of days (such as 70 days) on the seed packet or plant label mean?

A.  Days are counted from when a six-inch healthy plant is set into the garden until the first fruit is ripe.

Q.  What does “early,” “mid,” or “late-season” mean?

A.  Early-season varieties require 50-65 days, mid-season varieties 65-80 days, and late-season ones 80 or more days from transplant to mature fruit.

Q.  What do letters like “VFNT” after a variety name mean?

A.  These stand for organisms that the variety shows SOME but not complete resistance to, such as V- verticulum wilt (a fungus,) F- fusarium (a fungus,) N- nematodes, T- tobacco mosaic virus.

thermometerQ.  When should I plant my plants outside?

A.  Tomato plants are very frost sensitive, so night-time outdoor temperatures must be consistently above freezing, but daytime temps not yet too hot.

Q.  At what outdoor temperature will my tomato plants thrive?

A.  Tomatoes only grow well and produce fruit in the temperature range of 55-85 degrees F.  Below 55 degrees fruit doesn’t set and blossoms fall off.  Tomato pollen becomes sterile at 90 degrees and blossoms again fall off.

plantingseedlingsoutsideQ.  How deep should I plant my plants?

A.  Tomato plants have the unusual ability to root from the stem (adventitious roots).  Putting the root mass and stem deeper in the soil so that only the upper-most tuft of leaves is above soil level allows the plant to root from the stem resulting in a bigger root system and a larger, stronger plant during the season.


Contributed by Jim Mast