A Few Tips for Growing Huge Tomatoes
Tomatoes, everyone’s back yard favorite:
Tomatoes are the single most likely crop to be grown in home gardens throughout the United States. According to the National Gardening Association 86% of US home gardeners will be growing at least one variety of tomato this year.
Are you one of the 86% and if so do you want to grow lots of huge tomatoes this season? Do you wish to be the talk of the gardening neighborhood or possibly even take home a blue ribbon from the fair? You can do it, and for gardeners in Zone 6 and points north there is still plenty of time to get started.
You southern folks may need to scramble just a bit.
Choosing the right tomato:
Naturally you will want to start out with tomatoes that have a chance of setting records. A four ounce early variety or cherry tomato has no chance at all so start with, perhaps, a beefsteak tomato or a big heirloom variety like Brandywine, these give good results. But, if you really want to stack the deck in your favor go with this year’s giant, offered by the Burpee Corporation and known as the Steakhouse tomato.
Folks, this cultivar can produce a brute of a fruit, one which can grow to be three pounds. Tomatoes simply do not get much bigger.
Getting off to a good start:
It is important to start your tomatoes at the proper time. In zone six as an example that will be 10 weeks before the transplant date, which will be four weeks after the last frost date which is about April 20th. When we do the math we find that transplanting time should be around the end of May. Working back ten weeks we find that the second week of March would be a great time to start those tomatoes.
Use large pots to allow plenty of root development.
Prep the ground; you are going for the gold here so when the soil becomes workable and dries out sufficiently pre-dig deep and wide, two feet deep by thirty inches around. Allow four feet on center between plants when you space the holes.
Refill the holes with a mixture of your garden soil, sifted compost, a handful of specialized tomato fertilizer, powdered eggshells and Epsom salt. Mound the filling high, it will settle before you are ready to plant.
When you do plant the young tomatoes, be sure to submerge part of the stem beneath the soil as well as the roots. Roots will spring out from the buried stem, and this is a good thing.
The minutia of it all:
Here is the part most gardeners cannot do. Ruthlessly pinch off or prune the extra shoots and greenery from your tomato plants, you want to grow tomato fruit, not leaves and stems. This will go against the grain of most gardeners and there is some controversy about the practice. If you want huge tomatoes, however, this is the road to take.
Keep the plants well weeded and watered. Many gardeners stake their tomatoes and this is fine. Other gardeners weed in minute detail and then put down a thick layer of straw and let the tomatoes sprawl on top of this layer. This is also good but you must do one or the other. Given the potential size of these tomatoes “straw and sprawl” may be best.
Twice during the season treat the plants to a generous foliar spray featuring kelp or fish emulsion.
Watch for pesky insect pests, although healthy plants should really have little trouble.
There is work involved and no mistake, but you are going for the biggest tomatoes you have ever grown or which many people will ever have seen the pay-off may justify the extra time and effort.
Oh and where are you going to hang that blue ribbon by the way?