Swansons Nursery :: Seattle's Favorite Garden Center - Helping Seattle gardeners since 1924
Swansons Nursery - Since 1924

Tomatoes - the taste of summerTOMATO-MANIA

Slice them in a salad, simmer in a sauce, or nibble them straight from the vine, tomatoes are the taste of summer...

Homegrown tomatoes can’t be beat. Tomatoes are a ‘must have’ in most vegetable gardens. Easy to grow, they prefer full sun, and with proper support (to keep them up off the ground) they will provide you with more room to plant other vegetables around them. When selecting tomato starters, check the tag as to how many days is generally required for maturity. If possible, buy more than just one variety and select varieties that are early season, mid season, or late; for a long season of harvest.

For the best success in growing tomatoes follow these helpful tips:

Pick the right variety - Tomato varieties are either determinate type plants (they may grow to about three feet in height and then stop), or indeterminate (they will grow as high as you let them grow). If your space is limited, choose determinate types.

Planting time - Tomatoes are a warm season vegetable and an unhappy tomato plant that is set out too early, languishes and some never really recover. They need warm soil and nighttime temperatures should be above 50F and no chance of frost. You can use Season Starter plant protectors for added protection with early season plantings. Set them up one week early to warm up the soil locally before planting.

Provide lots of sunshine - Tomato plants, like any plant that produces fruit, needs at least six to eight hours of direct sun. If you have less, you will have great foliage but with little fruiting.

Give them room to grow - Tomatoes need at least 18” between plants, preferably 2 feet, for plants grown upright on stakes or cages; space according to their full grown, not the size of the transplants. If no support is given and they sprawl on the ground, tomato plants need twice as much room. Plants spaced too closely will produce fewer fruits and have more disease problems with wet foliage, or contact with the soil.

Give them support - Tomatoes need staking or support to keep the fruit and leaves from contacting the soil that can cause disease and insect problems. We offer 4 sizes of tomato cages by Sturdy Cage, made from galvanized wire with super heavy-duty green powder coating. These cages come in a inverted design. We also have heavy duty galvanized steel cages in 2 sizes. You can also train your tomato vines on poles, if you prefer.

Fertilize, but not too much -Tomatoes prefer a balanced organic fertilizer and follow label directions on Tomato-tone by Espoma, or Dr Earth Tomato, Vegetable & Herb fertilizer. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers such as lawn food as you will grow lots of leaves and very few fruits. Better yet, throw a shovel full of Harvest Supreme compost around the plants every other week.

Water consistently - Make sure your soils don't dry out and use an organic mulch to help conserve moisture. If the soil dries out around your tomato plants a serious problem can result. Blossom-end rot, a brown, dry, leathery spot found on the bottom of fruit is caused by a lack of calcium. Calcium is transported by water from the roots, lack of water = lack of calcium and results in blossom-end rot. We typically have sufficient calcium in our soils, only regular watering will make the difference.

Watch for pest problems - Remember, it's normal to see some insects on your plants and chances are, most of them are not doing any harm. And every year, diseases will cause some yellowing and browning. But you should get more than enough fruit to satisfy your needs even with some pest damage. At the very least, learn to identify common tomato pests so that you can take appropriate action. Use chemicals as a last resort.

Harvest tips - Nothing beats the fresh flavor of vine ripened tomatoes. Do not put them in a sunny window and do not refrigerate tomatoes – they will lose their flavor. Leave your tomatoes at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. If you want them to ripen faster, put them in a brown paper bag. Got too many? Share with your neighbors, wonderful coworkers, or your local food bank!

Tomato variety list for 2013 season

For more information on growing tomatoes in containers