Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Grow, Eat, Enjoy - Tomatoes

Tomatoes - For some of us, they are the highlight of summer.

While you can find good food throughout the year. Only in summer can you experience the ripe, warm-from-the-sun tomato.


Everyone has their own hints for tomato growing. I have three hints. Take your time. Give them  space. Water well.

Take your time. Tomatoes love hot weather. Sure you can plant them early, protect them, and worry about every frost and cold night. I find it easier, and healthier for the plants, if I just wait until the soil is warm and all danger of frost is over. It isn't until then that the tomatoes will start growing anyway.

This year my tomatoes were planted very late. But they soon caught up. Most of the plants tower over me, reaching six feet at least. Nearly everyone that sees my tomatoes wonder what I do to them. Really, nothing. They apparently like my soil conditions.

Give them space. I learned after a few years experience that tomatoes grow like they are on steroids in my garden. It may look like I'm wasting space, but I give them lots of room. I find airflow helps cut back disease and blight. Besides if you have tomato plants that grow this big, you just don't need as many.

Everyone has their own opinion on stakes and cages. I love a large metal cage. Attached to a heavy metal stake, these cages can support these huge plants. A smaller wooden stake just pulls out of the ground when the plant grows heavy and a wind blows.

Water well. Even if we do not face a summer like last year's drought, (and so far this summer is looking just like it) often there is at least a short dry spell. Supplying consistent water means better tomatoes and less dry rot. Spacing out the plants and mulching also help conserve moisture.

I love the Amish Paste tomato since it is thick and meaty like a Roma but much larger and easy to pick.

Other places I wrote about growing tomatoes are linked here.

 Planting tomatoes
My experience with several different Tomato varieties 
How to make a sturdy tomato cage


I haven't experienced a lot of pest problems. Sometimes a ground hog will take a bite out a low growing tomato. Last year the neighbor's peacocks took a daily stroll through our garden and a enjoyed succulent breakfast of tomatoes. We found a tomato horn worm on our plants last year but didn't destroy it because the parasite wasp had already found him.


My tomatoes are just beginning. We have had lots of hot weather but they seem to be taking their time. Since there is so few, I wash, remove the cores and place them in the freezer. Eventually my tomatoes will ripen faster and I'll get out my frozen supply and have the thickest tomato sauce painlessly!

We are not huge raw tomato eaters. A few on a sandwich, on eggs, pizza, and occasionally just sliced as a side dish are enjoyed but the majority are preserved for winter.

Some of our favorite tomato preserving recipes.

pizza sauce

tomato soup
barbecue sauce

sundried tomatoes
how to make tomato powder

peach salsa

Now I loved to hear from you. What is your favorite growing tip? How do you use tomatoes?


  1. Oh my, I don't think I've ever seen tomato plants this big!! Wish I could borrow a corner of your garden. :) We can salsa, pizza sauce, and my own version of V8 juice. We eat quite a few fresh too.

  2. So far, my son has brought in two ripe tomatoes. Eager to see many, many more turn into several mega batches of salsa! :) Two years ago I made 3 batches in my 20qt roaster. We need more than 2 just to make it through the year. LOVE salsa ♥

    Your plants are beautiful! I didn't get cages on ours, so they are sprawled on the ground. :-\

  3. What gorgeous tomatoes!! I have never canned anything, but this summer I have joined our new "Can-Can Club!" We've had one class on canning, and Aug. 20 we will have our first group-canning party! We will be canning tomatotoes! As always, thank you for your inspiration Gina! BTW..how are the beansprout teepees working out??

  4. I have NEVER grown tomatoes like that!!! Amazing!!! Keep up the good work. Out here in California I have experienced more wilt and blossom drop than ever. Less bees this year too :(
    But, I am definitely always learning!

  5. Oh Gina they look amazing. I would love to see an example of the cage without the tomato on it as I would like to get something like that. My favourite with our tomatoes is Bruschetta. Tomato, red onion, lots of fresh basil all chopped with a little Balsamic Vinegar spread over lightly toasted bread like Sourdough or Ciabatta. That's summer to me :-)

  6. Gina- Your tomatoes are amazing! I love the picture of your kids next to those towering plants. I have never canned tomato sauce before, but am interesting in reading your link and giving it a try. Thanks so much for your post. The only other advice I would give a "newbie" is to planta avrieties suited to your climate. I grow lots of Russian heirlooms becasue they do well and ripen in my cooler climate.

  7. It's good to know I am not the only one! Mt tomatoes are about 5 feet tall. They have surpassed the cages!

    Those are the cherry variety, the regular Brandywine and early Girls are way behind. Sad, and small! We have an unknown variety growing huge and fat. It was marked as Super Sweet 100 at the local nursery. I rushed over since our first round of tomatoes had died. It suspiciously looks like a big Brandywine? We'll see!

  8. I've grown tomatoes here on a foggy coast in California. My friend took me to a master gardener class on growing organic tomatoes and we each walked away with over 50 varieties! With our love and care, we grew them to a size big enough but small enough to give (most of them) away. The only ones this weather will allow to grow are the cherry size...but boy, they are delicious! I love your recipes and will take note on getting the most out of growing these delicious love apples. My husband, Robert @ MillicanPecan.com and I love your website.


I love to hear from you.


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