Urban Garden Tomatoes

The queen of the garden, tomatoes are the most commonly grown plant to grow in America! For many a big harvest of tomatoes is the ultimate gardening achievement.

tomatoes urban garden

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Nutrition

Tomatoes are a great source of Vitamins A, C and K. A rich dose of the antioxidant lycopene helps cardiovascular health and reduces risk of cancer.

When cooked the amount of available lycopene increases, but the amount of Vitamin C drops, have it both ways!

Eating

For maximum flavor eat right away, a tomato sliced in the garden with a little salt is divine . Tomatoes brighten a salad. Can be stuffed, stewed, sauced and are the base of many great dishes!

Storage

DO Not refrigerate tomatoes, temperatures below 55F will cause the flavors to quickly break down.

A picked green tomato will turn red faster in the dark then in the sun.  A warm dark place is best even  for sweet ripening. Leaving them in the sun can burn and redden them (not ripen them).

Extra tomatoes can be frozen, canned or dried for long term use.

To force an early crop

Once the tomatoes are established and as large as you expect them to be, use a garden knife and cut a semi-circle around the plant 6” from the stem and about 8” deep.

The plants aren’t sure what’s going on and will push nutrients into the fruits, ripening them quickly and giving them extra flavor.

The plants will recover quickly as if nothing happened.

Getting started

Tomatoes do best when started indoors, and are helped by a good growing head start of 6 to 7 weeks before the last frost.

Sow ¼” in potting mix.

Tomatoes like heat, and often will not sprout unless temperatures are 75- 90f to create these conditions, use a heating mat.

Outdoor adjustment

Harden young seedlings by moving them outside for a few hours every, increase the amount of time they spend outside until you are ready to plant them.

Planting

Soil and seedling prep

Water seedling before starting, try to transplant on a cloudy day or during the evening.

Transplanting in wind, or lots of sun will stress the plants.

Pick a spot that will get around 8 hours of sun a day and has rich soil with good drainage, and lots of organic material. Use compost to boost the nutrients in the soil. Soil that has been amended with compost is best.

Planting

Plant 18” apart! Tomatoes need lots of room, and will get diseases and pests if they are extremely close, if you have extra seedlings it’s easy to find a neighbor or passerby to adopt them, just ask!

DO NOT Mulch at planting, wait at least 3 weeks before mulching. Early mulch will slow down growth and may attract slugs. Make sure you pull any small weeds during this time and mulch as soon as the soil is nice and warm.

Plant Deep

Pinch off all but the top two sets of leaves (about two thirds of the plant should be bare).

Lay horizontally, in a trench about 3” deep, the whole stem should be lying on the soil.

Gently bend the stem, so the leaves are above the soil line, cover the entire stem.

This whole length will quickly sprout roots, boosting growth, production and protecting against drought.

If planting in a container, or if space is an issue, use the same technique, but dig down instead of out.

Guard against cutworms

Cutworms will comp right through the stem of your tomato at just below the soil, insure this doesn’t happen by making a 2” newspaper collar around the seedlings.

Growing

Tomato plants need 60-70 days of warm weather before the first fruits will be ripe.

Tomato plants need lot water. Damp (not swampy) ground means great growth.

In high or prolonged heat tomatoes will have a hard time setting fruit. If watered appropriately, plants will be fine through heat waves, and will start making fruit again once it cools down.

Provide wind block, this is especially important for tomatoes and a must on any rooftop, terrace or patio.

Support

In the first weeks that your plants are growing make sure you support your plants.

Use stakes, tomato cages or a vertical support system.

It’s not catastrophic if you neglect this step until later, but it can seriously damage the plants.

Tomato plants that are not supported will produce significantly lower amounts of fruit and are susceptible to diseases.

Hold off on mulch

Do not mulch tomatoes right away, wait at least 3 weeks before mulching.

Early mulch will slow down growth and may attract slugs.

Make sure you pull any small weeds during this time and mulch as soon as the soil is nice and warm.

Feeding

Tomatoes need lots of nutrients, use compost as mulch, or slow release use organic fertilizers.

Rapid release fertilizer can be applied about every 3.5 weeks.

Do not over fertilize!

Harvesting

Ripe tomatoes should easily come off the vine, if you have to tug of rip a fruit off it likely needs more time to vine ripen.

Mature green tomatoes are pump and soft, often they have strips or hints of yellow, these are great for eating, but unless you are growing a green when ripe verity, wait until they have their full bloom of color. Keep picking to get more fruit!

Tradition

Tomato’s originated in central and south America.

They are believed to have been cultivated soon after humans settled, they were a staple of the Aztecs who had advanced agriculture and are thought to have developed many of the verities we now enjoy.

The Spanish brought the tomatoes back to Europe around 600 years ago, at first Italians thought they were a type of eggplant.

Family

Tomato also known as Solanum lycopersicum is a member of the nightshade family along with peppers and eggplants.