I recently attended a lecture at my local nursery on how to grow tomatoes. If your local nursery provides gardening or cooking lectures, GO! I had a great time at the lecture and learned a lot. What I love about going to things like this is that other people have questions that you don’t, so you always learn more than you thought you needed to know
This particular lecture was given by Kevin Callaway, a true tomato lover. This guy travels the world for tomatoes and he told us all about it. Here in Texas, it is tomato growing time, so sit back, grab a pen and paper and take notes on these tomato growing tips!
What kind of tomatoes should I plant?
Kevin Callaway gave us his favorites. He said he LOVES Cherokee Purple. The Cherokee Purples are large, dark tomatoes which seem to be a favorite around here. I tried to buy some after the lecture but the nursery ran out. I called for a couple of weeks after and I couldn’t get my hands on a single one. But I was finally able to find some at another nursery and I’ve got three growing in my garden right now. He also suggested the Tigris tomato.
If you are looking for a cherry-sized variety tomato he suggested Cherry Sweet 100 or Sun Gold. He said the Sun Gold has great production.
What do my tomatoes need to grow well?
Plant your tomatoes in full sun. They like it.
Tomatoes need root space. Kevin uses raised beds. But that’s not all. He takes 20 gallon plastic planting containers and drills holes in the bottom. He then fills them with a mix of Baccto Soil mix, turkey compost and Back to Nature cow manure. He also layers the top of the mix with more turkey compost. Kevin uses the largest tomato cage to put into his container and then adds the 8 foot bamboo poles to give even more support. He places the tomato plant in the container and the container on the raised bed. The plant’s roots grow into the container and down through the holes into the raised bed beneath.
Tomatoes need their water. He said he waters four times a day. I’m not sure about how much each time. But if your tomato plant gets stressed from not having enough water, it will never produce at its potential. So make sure to keep it well hydrated!
The fertilizer of choice for your precious tomatoes is Texas Tomato Food which has a healthy blend of nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium.
What kind of organic pest control can I use?
Kevin said that here in Texas, spider mites are our worst problem. After growing tomatoes for three years now I have never had spider mites, but many people at the lecture had questions about these pesky bugs. If you are having problems with spider mites, Kevin suggested a few options:
- Remove vegetation
- Spinosad is a good one to use right in the beginning. It helps with young plants.
- Organocide (can burn, so use caution)
- Purchase Ladybugs which feed on spider mites
- Sucrashield (a new organic substance)
If you have problems with birds getting to your tomatoes, his suggestion was netting material to cover your plants.
Other helpful information
Putting mulch on the soil around your plants protects them from spoil splash, a leaf disease that arises from water bouncing off the soil and splashing the underneath of the leaves. Tomatoes don’t like it too cold. They prefer temperatures 50 degrees and above. Make sure to keep your plants covered if the temperature gets down to 32 degrees as they cannot survive freezing temperatures.
As a fairly new gardener, these tips are sure to help me to do better in the tomato growing department than years past. I hope they help you grow enough tomatoes for you and your family, and enough to share too