Each month a different vegetable, flower or herb is featured from plant to plate so check back regularly to see what’s growing on.
A tomato is a nutrient-dense superfood that offers benefit to a range of bodily systems. Its nutritional content supports healthful skin, weight loss, and heart health. Including tomatoes in the diet can help protect against cancer, maintain healthy blood pressure, and reduce blood glucose in people with diabetes. Raw tomatoes contain key carotenoids such as lutein and lycopene. These can protect the eye against light-induced damage. Alternatively, eat them cooked or stewed, as these preparation methods can boost the availability of key nutrients. Determinate tomato plants are bush varieties that ripen a heavy crop over a few weeks. Indeterminate are vining varieties that bear fruit continuously until frost.
* Sow tomato seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost
* Keep the soil moist at 75 degrees F
* Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days
* Provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
* Feed seedlings when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
* Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Aclimate young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.
* Plant outdoors in full sun with good rich moist organic soil. Make sure you did not grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplant or potatoes in the bed the previous year to avoid disease problems.
* Mulch around plants to retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. This is especially important for tomatoes as their roots may be easily damaged when weeding, and this can lead to blossom end rot.
* Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1-2 inches of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
* Support plants with tomato cages or stakes.
* Monitor for pests and diseases.
* Do NOT refrigerate and try to avoid having the fruit touch each other. The foliage of tomatoes is toxic and should not be eaten.