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Reconnect with food the way it should be—starting with tomatoes. Whether you have a pot on the patio, a raised bed, or a large plot of ground, this is where you can find answers and resources to help you discover new ways to grow this iconic fruit.

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Experts

Experts

Gary Ibsen and Dagma Lacey

Gary and Dagma are World Tomato Society Co-Founders, as well as vital sources of tomato expertise and celebration.

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Expert

Dorota Basiura

Dorota and her family have been growing tomatoes for years, meticulously recording information about each variety in her home town of Kielce, voivodeship: Świętokrzyskie, Poland.

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Expert

Andrea Clapp

Andrea is an Iowa native whose love of growing plants started at an early age under the guidance of her Italian grandparents,thereby preserving their family’s heritage and traditions.

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Expert

Joseph Lofthouse

Joseph is a sustenance farmer and breeder of landrace crops in Paradise, Utah (USA), a village settled by his ancestors in 1860.

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Expert

Jere Gettle

Jere Gettle is founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and a contributor to the World Tomato Society.

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How To

  • Q: What are treated seeds?
    A:

    You may also want to refer to a practice used by some companies that “defuzzes” the seeds, making them smaller and smoother—this may be surprising to some gardeners if they are not familiar with the impact of the process.

  • Q: Should I remove foliage to expose more light?
    A:

    The answer here is no tomatoes will ripen fine under a canopy, and too much sun will scorch your tomatoes. Removing leaves around and up the stem while not exposing your fruit is an effective way to keep air circulation high and moisture low, and it will help prevent the spread of harmful fungus.

  • Q: Does the frost date matter when starting seeds indoors?
    A:

    Most definitely. If you sow them too early, your plants can become root bound, requiring another transplanting step into larger pots (more work), or they can become large and leggy, making them more difficult to transplant and, typically, more fragile and susceptible to wind damage. Starting your plants too late runs the risk of running out of growing season before the fruit ripens.

    On our farm, we typically begin sowing our tomatoes about six weeks before the day we expect to plant them in the garden. Although you can never know exactly when your last frost of the winter/spring season will be, we can use averages of historical data to make educated guesses. Folks in the United States can find this information here and Canadian gardeners can find it here.

  • Q: How do I prevent anthracnose from spreading?
    A:

    If the fungus has already taken hold, a foliar application of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) can be effective in keeping it from spreading, but the best way to control any fungus is by preventing it. Keeping a strong microbiological environment in your soil will help a plant’s immune system and, very importantly, keep your soil draining well—fungus needs a high moisture environment to thrive.

  • Q: What are the benefits to biodegradable pots?
    A:

    Biodegradable pots have their place in the gardener’s arsenal. They are a good choice when starting plants that are sensitive to transplant shock, like melons. But in the context of raising tomatoes, at least on our farm in NW Oregon, I have not found biodegradable pots to be of any particular benefit. In my experience, tomato plants benefit from a bit of root disturbance at the time of transplanting. It seems to slow plant growth for several days while at the same time stimulating root growth. This ultimately results in stronger, healthier plants. You can read more about starting plants from seeds here.

  • Q: How to read a DIY soil test kit results?

    A:

    Since there are many different testing kits and tools on the market, the short answer is that you should read the documentation that came with the test kit that you purchased. Some kits are quite sophisticated, akin to the chemistry set you may have had as a child. The four basic tests performed by most home test products are pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

    I suggest you create a map of your gardens and yards, and then test samples from various locations, recording the results on the map in the area that the test was performed. When you are done, you will have a good visual representation of what areas are healthy and which ones need amending to improve fertility. You can then use the information provided with the kits, or another data source, to add the necessary amendments.

  • Q: Why aren’t my seeds germinating?

    A:

    How old your seeds are should be considered—they lose their fertility after a period of time. A seed that doesn’t germinate may be due to several factors or a combination of overwatering, inconsistent temperatures (temperatures should ideally be above 70 F) or not enough dampness. Usually, an initial thorough soaking of the soil medium should be sufficient to bring the plant to the germination stage. Covering the planting box with plastic or a plastic cover, such as those found in most nurseries, will help maintain moisture. Germination is best in a dark room and warm area.

    Generally, you can expect seedlings to emerge five to 10 days after they are sown. Higher temperatures will result in quicker germination, while lower temperatures will result in delayed germination. Be sure to maintain your seeds in the optimal temperature zone for the best results.

  • Q: What type of lighting should I use for my seedlings?

    A:

    Tomatoes are long-day plants. Natural sunlight is considered the best for seedlings; however, there is usually not enough light in the shorter spring days for the needed 14–16 hours of combined direct and indirect light recommended for good growth.

    There are several different types of grow lights available.

    • Full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs can come close to replicating natural sunlight and are the most cost-efficient.
    • High-intensity discharge lights come in several types and are more expensive, but they do provide an excellent supplement for natural sunlight.
    • Metal halide (MH) bulbs give off a light toward the blue spectrum, prompting more leaf production.
    • High pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs promote flowering and leggy growth from its red/orange spectrum, but it’s not recommended for use with tomato seedlings unless combined with other types of light.
    • LED lights are now finding their way into the gardening world, but not all LED lights are suitable for growing. These are more expensive but last much longer and, more importantly, are much cooler than the other options, with less watering as a benefit. A 180-watt LED will easily compete with a 360-watt high-intensity discharge (HID), for example. We suggest you research advanced LED grow lights if this is the direction you choose to go.

  • Q: How many plants are needed for my family of four?

    A:

    It depends on your appetite for tomatoes, but an average of 8–12 plants would be good if you’re just growing them for fresh eating, or 25–50 plants if you are trying to grow your entire supply for canning and year-round use.

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