A good year for tomatoes

For many of us, with this year's ideal tomato-growing weather, many of us will have a bumper crop!

Credit: Roger Hanna

Pictured left: Positanos grown from seeds that were brought back from Italy in a napkin.

How wonderful, after last year’s relatively bad tomato-growing experience—in some cases, not having tomatoes ripen until very late August—we’ve been experiencing ideal tomato-growing weather this year, so many of us will have a bumper crop. Yay!

In my garden, ‘Soleil’, a yellow tomato (seed from Two Wings Farms on Vancouver Island) produced the first ripe fruit, with ‘Sungold’ F1 (still my flavour favourite) and ‘SuperSweet 100’ tied for second place.

Marianne’s Sun Sauce recipe

The perfect tomato harvest dish gets marinated in the sun for drool-worthy flavour.

A lot of people ask me what to do when lower leaves become yellowy brown and crispy. If your tomato is growing in containers and shows signs of yellowing, you are probably not feeding it enough—container-grown tomatoes require balanced organic fertilizer (something related to fish or kelp) about every 7–10 days. Start now if you haven’t already.

Grown in the ground, yellowing tomato leaves on the bottom of plants seems normal, and I tend to trim them off with scissors. As long as the rest of the plant is a nice deep green (though tomatoes do vary in their green coloration) and producing well, those lower leaves are probably just tired out—they were the first ones produced by the seedling, after all.

Rosalita tomatoes produce a lot
Rosalita tomatoes produce a lot

A couple of times I have been so desperate to get water on my veggie garden that I’ve used an overhead sprinkler. Especially this year with our super-hot weather, many gardeners have needed to resort to this, which is not recommended. Overhead watering is not good for tomato leaves, bean leaves nor many other veggies, but sometimes you have to get to work, or your arm is practically falling off from holding a watering wand for hours and hours. So, if you must resort to overhead sprinkling, be sure to only do this early in the morning before the sun gets hot enough to burn the leaves—not later than 10 a.m.—and never at night! Plants do not take up water in the dark, and there are a lot of other reasons not to—though many otherwise-intelligent people seem to practice night watering regularly.

In any case, trim the dead stuff off. Remember to keep pinching—don’t let those suckers get a foothold. Most indeterminate tomato types can handle two “main” stems, so it’s okay to allow the first stem plus one extra to develop. Sungold is so vigorous, being a hybrid, that it can support three—at least I’m trying it this year. Suckers will continue to try to grow—they are as persistent as a three year old by the candy at the checkout stand—so keep pinching them off. Hand-watering is a great time to regularly practice pinching. The purpose of removing suckers, by the way, is to allow energy to go into producing fruit, rather than a whole lot of leaves.

Tonados de conores, sungold
Tonados de conores, sungold

This is a concern for novice tomato growers this year—because of our great warm summer weather so far, some tomatoes have grown into gigantic bushes with more than a dozen stems plus 5 million side shoots. I’ve been hearing from both my Gaia students and folks I’ve met (and whose gardens I’ve visited) through North Shore Recycling Project’s “Garden Parties” are experiencing problems with knowing “where to pinch, and when.” When plants are overgrown it’s not so easy to prune (and feels mean) but go for it—cut a bit, then stand back and check out the plant. It will forgive you in time—and you’ll get some tomatoes. Google “pinching tomato suckers YouTube” and you’ll find hundreds of very helpful videos if you prefer that kind of instruction.