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Three Things Tomatoes Need

11 Aug 2020 1:00 AM | Brenda Peshak


I have been in the garden, or tending my own garden for over 65 years. One of the mainstays has been tomatoes of all types and sizes.

I was raised as a nontraditional tomato grower. On the farm, we didn’t stake, we didn’t water, we didn’t pinch off the suckers. The only concession we made to them was to place water in the planting hole, and protect them from the sun for a couple of weeks with broken clay tile, which we stood on end. This kept them from getting too much sun during their first two weeks after transplant; it also helped retain moisture. Mom’s favorites were Rutgers, as she canned countless quarts of tomatoes, sauce and juice.  I have fond memories of sitting out in the garden on hot August afternoons, looking for ripe tomatoes, and eating so many of them that my chin broke out.

When is a tomato ready to eat?

I have been blind since birth, but that hasn’t stopped me from planting, caring for, or harvesting tomatoes. They ripen from the bottom of the vine up on, so that’s where I start to look. When they change from hard to being slightly firm and a little soft they are ready to eat.


In the container garden, I raised determinant varieties such as Better Bush and Bush Champion. Tomato cages help to keep the plants upright, and if necessary, tie them with loose string as well. The crop has been tremendous this year, and they just keep being tied up, and producing. Since they are in containers, they get watered often.

Tomatoes love three things:

  1. rich and well-drained soil
  2. plenty of water
  3. and lots of sunshine.

In my nontraditional view, plants don’t care when they get watered. Morning may be best, as any water that gets on the leaves will be evaporated by the sun.

Disease Prevention and Troubleshooting Problems:

Now that August is here, the plants are looking a little weather worn. The bottom leaves are drying up, and production has slowed down in the determinant cultivars.  Watering occurs from the bottom in saucers, or where a saucer is lacking, a watering can is used to water the soil only. Tomato diseases love damp foliage, and since they are not treated, prevention is my best weapon.

Five cherry tomatoes are growing in pots in the garden. They are not trimmed, but are vining along a fence, where they get the frequent tie up treatment so they are upright, receive better air circulation, and promotes an easier way to find the tomatoes. They are so prolific that some of them will split, but that is a minor problem. Tomatoes that fall off as they are ripening is a bigger issue for me.

When weeding the ground garden earlier this summer, several volunteers were noted. They are growing among the flowers, and now they are tied in baskets. Their fruits are small, bigger than cherries, but smaller than the full-sized fruits. Nonetheless, they are tasty and welcome. Since they got a late start, they will ripen a little later, which is an additional bonus.

Don’t Compost Old Diseased Leaves

Autumn is here. Old dead vines end up in a recycling bin for pick up. Since they are so plagued by diseases, composting them is not a good idea. If you like green tomatoes, or wish to ripen them indoors when frost is close, pick off the most mature green ones for storage. Then, wait until next year, and look forward to fresh tomatoes again.

The vegetable garden at Demonstration is a great place to observe a large variety of tomato plants. Plants in this garden get better care than mine do, so this will be a good model for you.

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