Master Gardener - Julie Barnes
8 Tomato Myths
By: Scott Daigre
Fine Gardening Magazine, August 2012, p. 26-28
Condensed by Julie Barnes
IT' S NO SECRET that the tomato is a summer-time favorite with its memorable taste. But it is also thought to be difficult to grow. Let’s dispel some common misconceptions to render a great harvest.
1. Tomato Seedlings are Fragile -
Though small, they're certainly not fragile and far tougher than given credit for. So choose a seedling, select a sunny spot, and bury it deep. There's no need to coddle it.
2. Growing Tomatoes in Pots Is the Same as Growing in the Ground -
No, it's different. In some ways, more challenging, in other ways, it’s far better. Soil in containers warms up faster than ground soil, so tomatoes can ripen up to two week earlier in a pot than in the ground. Yet container growing does require more work fertilizing, watering and sometimes mulching to protect the root system from high heat. Generally, short season and small variety tomatoes work best in containers where large ones need the best possible conditions to produce well.
3. The More Sun, the Better -
Commercial tomato plants are hybrids specifically bred to thrive in fields receiving sunlight from dawn to dusk. But, most tomato plants require full sun only six to eight hours a day. Sun scald can perhaps be a problem if your garden plot exposes fruits to more than eight hours of sun a day.
4. For Sauce Use Only Paste Tomatoes -
Large commercial companies use paste tomatoes such as ‘Roma’ to make sauce since these plants produce heavily, ripen at the same time and are easy to process. But, if you use tomatoes that are amazing to you, the sauce should still be tasty. Some tomatoes may contain more water so that it takes longer to obtain the right sauce texture. Others may be a little harder to process.
5. Tomato Plants Need Lots of Water -
Consistently soggy soil can encourage disease therefore resist any temptation to water too much. As the season progresses, your plants will appear less vigorous as water is channeled into the maturing fruit. Your tomatoes should be watered “infrequently,” every four or five days and "deeply," soaking the root ball each time watered. New plantings will require less soaking but as the season progresses roots expand- needing to be watered longer.
6. When Leaves Turn Yellow, Fertilize -
You should fertilize on a schedule, following a product’s directions. Tomato plants grown in proper outside soil should not need aggressive fertilizing to perform well. Some leaves, especially lower ones that no longer receive sun, will turn yellow and slough off as the season progresses. Newly placed plants will be gorgeous, fat, and green. Once temperatures rise, and the plant grows larger it will start to look unhealthy as its concentration shifts from producing leaves and stems to fruiting. More water besides fertilizer will not fix this problem.
7. Pruning Is Essential for Great Tomatoes -
No, it's not. You have a choice to make: Do you want (a) large, wide plants that may become a bit unruly and produce a lot of small fruit or (b) more manicured plants that have fewer but larger fruit? Your garden site or zone can help you with this decision.
8. The Fruit Is Ripe when Red -
If this were true, how could you tell when a yellow tomato was ready to be eaten? The fruit is ripe when it has reached its true color (depending on the type) and is softening. Pick the fruit as it breaks. If critters are a problem in your garden, let it rest in your kitchen and it will flavor up just fine.