The Quest for the Perfect Tomato
Tomatoes are by far the most widely-grown garden veggie in North America, and why wouldn't they be? The flavors, colors, and shapes you can achieve by growing them yourself beat the ones you find at the grocery store any day! We reached out to you to hear your favorite tomato varieties and tips for growing the tastiest tomatoes ever. Keep reading for all this, plus the need-to-know fundamentals for beginner tomato growers!
Your Favorite Tomato Varieties
We took to social media to ask you about the tomato varieties you're most excited to grow this year. Here's what you said:
"Berkeley Tie Dye and Pink Berkeley Tie Dye" - Debbie B.
Berkeley Tie Dye and Pink Berkeley Tie Dye tomatoes are beautiful multi-colored striped varieties. The large, rich-flavored fruits make excellent slicers and do very well for sauce-making.
"I'll be planting Heirlooms and sweet cherry tomatoes!" - Dawn E.
Cherry tomatoes are known for packing a ton of flavor into a small package. These tiny tomatoes come in hundreds of varieties, including heirlooms! Heirloom tomato varieties, as opposed to hybrids, have been cultivated by hand and passed down by seed-savers for generations.
"I grew the chocolate variety, and they were delicious!" - Melissa T.
Chocolate Cherry tomatoes are a cherry variety named for their deep, almost-brown color. The flavor profile on this heavy-producing plant matches the color of its fruit: deep, rich, sweet, and undeniably delicious!
"Italian Heirlooms! Already ordered and excited to pick up Friday afternoon!" - Dejah T
It's no secret that the Italians know good food, and tomatoes are central to hundreds of famous Italian dishes. Italian Heirloom tomatoes are a perfect multi-purpose tomato for home cooks; perfect for fresh slicing, canning, and cooking into sauces.
Hopefully Lava Flow and Vorlon! - Noel H.
Lava Flow tomatoes are our 2021 Tomato of the Year! This stunning variety was developed in Hawaii with glowing red and orange stripes reminiscent of lava that flows from Pu'u' O 'o' in the eastern rift zone of the Kilauea volcano. The neon-bright exterior and pastel yellow and pink interior are as complex as the flavor; an intriguing, fruit, and balanced bite.
Vorlon tomatoes sit on the other end of the color and flavor spectrum. This Bulgarian heirloom variety boasts a purple-black color and an intense, smoky flavor profile.
Aiko and Sungold - Zelda Z.
Aiko tomatoes are a popular plum tomato variety developing in Japan with crisp, sweet flesh that's absolutely perfect for salads, snacking, or cooking down into a certain famous feta pasta dish. Sungolds (along with similar, crack-resistant variety Sun Sugar), by contrast, have made waves over the past few years due to their jewel-like orange color and incredible kid-friendly flavor. They may be some of the sweetest tomatoes around!
Tomato Growing Basics
First year growing tomatoes? Don't worry—you may be surprised by how easy it is to grow your first crop! Here's all you need to know to get started with your tasty, edible tomato plants. Or, watch how it’s done with Tomatomania owner Scott Daigre!
Tomatoes need a well-draining, loamy, slightly acidic soil brimming with organic matter. If you're planting in garden pots & planters, use a high-quality potting mix and add a few inches of compost, like Bu's Blend Biodynamic Compost , to increase the amount of organic matter and nutrients. Make sure to use a larger pot than you might expect; the root systems of even compact tomato plants can grow very large through the season, and they'll need room to spread out! If planting in the garden, always amend your soil at the beginning of the season with a few inches of compost or a premium amendment such as Harvest Supreme. This will help to improve the texture, moisture retention, drainage, and nutrient content of your garden soil.
Tomatoes need 6-8 hours of sunlight each day, but our heatwaves in Orange County can be a challenge to manage. Position your plants where they'll enjoy some sunlight in the morning and early evening but will have some cover from the afternoon sun, the most intense of the day. Protecting them from intense heat will also help you manage your tomatoes' moisture needs.
Aim to keep your plants' soil consistently moist but not wet. In the spring, your tomatoes will likely need to be watered daily and upped to twice daily in the summer heat. Always water the soil, not the leaves, and be consistent with your watering schedule to prevent disease from developing on the plant. Make sure to water in the morning and/or evening when it's cooler, and the roots have more time to drink in the H2O!
Tomatoes are some of your garden's heaviest feeders. An organic fertilizer formulated for vegetables, like Down to Earth All-Purpose Fertilizer, will keep your soil nourished and help your tomatoes produce healthy, sweet fruit.
You might be surprised how quickly those little transplants can grow! Tomato cages or stakes are must-haves for supporting your plant as it grows taller, and keeping heavy fruit from sitting on the soil.
To prevent leaf crowding, which can lead to a disease-friendly environment, prune your tomato stems to just 3-4 main stems and remove "suckers" or new stems as you notice them. While it may seem like you're limiting your plant's potential by minimizing new growth, you'll actually be helping the plant save precious energy for fruit production!
Your Tomato Growing Secrets
Those of you who have been growing tomatoes for years were kind enough to share your best secrets for growing the tastiest tomatoes! Here's what you had to say:
"When you have some leftover or stale milk in any size carton, fill it up with water and pour it at the base of your tomato plant. Do this once or twice a week once the tomatoes are small. I've noticed it helps the tomatoes' skin grow firmer and shinier. It also helps the tomatoes become larger and juicier." - Cheryl U.
"Epsom salt! About a tablespoon in the bottom of the hole, cover with 5" of dirt, and plant your tomato start—for tangy tomatoes!" - Ann S.
Share Your “Hacks” for Healthy Soil on Social Media!
Got some more healthy soil secrets to share with our community? Make sure to share how you get your garden beds in tip-top shape with us by tagging @rogersgardens on Instagram or using #rogersgardens in your photos.