Tasty Tomatoes Cannot Be Beat In The Small Garden

When the tomato was first introduced into cultivation from South America, it was grown only as an ornamental in European and North American gardens under the name love apple. Belonging to the nightshade family and having several poisonous relatives, the fruit was long regarded with grave suspicion.

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But, some unbelievers must have eaten one without dire results. It is said to have been mentioned as a vegetable in North America in 1781, and several references to planting “tamatas” are found in Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book. Nevertheless, it was slow to gain popularity.

Yet today, the tomato is highly regarded as a most healthful and delicious food and is grown commercially on a vast scale.

For the home garden, tomatoes are one of the most productive and satisfactory vegetables and are never so delicious as when ripened on the plants. To get an early crop, especially in the North, seeds are sown about ten weeks before it is safe to set the plants outside.

Those fortunate enough to have a greenhouse can raise sturdy seedlings in a mixture of equal parts soil, leafmold or peat moss, and sand kept moist and in a 60° to 70° degree Fahrenheit temperature.

It is easy enough to get seedlings started in the house. The problem is to find enough sunny space for the plants when they need to be transplanted. If you try starting them indoors, put them into flats containing a little heavier soil mixture and spaced 2” inches apart, or place them singly into 3″ inch pressed peat moss pots. Since plants in peat pots can be set out, banks and all, they suffer no setback at that time.

Tomatoes In Sunny Location

Tomatoes thrive best in well-drained fertile soil and a sunny location. Stir the ground a foot or more profound, mixing in some leaf mold or other humus, plus a sprinkling of superphosphate to get the plants off to a good start.

Tomatoes root readily along the stem so that leggy plants can be set more profound than many other plants. But don’t be in a hurry to set them out. The plants make better progress if unchecked by cold, even though a covering may be provided against late frosts. See that the plants are well soaked when settling the soil.

In the home garden, it pays to train the stems on stakes or trellises rather than to allow them to sprawl over the ground. Space is saved, and cleaner, unblemished fruits are obtained. I train mine to a single stem on stakes set 20″ inches apart in the row and with 30″ inches between rows.

I like to have 5′ to 6′ feet of stake above ground. Another method of support is an A-shaped trellis, 4′ to 5′ feet high, to support a double row of plants set 3′ to 3 1/2′ feet apart and with 2 or 3 stems trained from the base of each plant. All side shoots should be pinched out as they appear.

As growth proceeds, tie promptly. A soft binder twine works well, as do Twist-ems or strips of old sheeting. There will be no slipping or strangulation if the tying material is passed twice around the stake, then crossed over and tied around the stem.

First Cluster of Fruit

When the first cluster of fruit shows, sprinkle a handful of 5-10-5 fertilizer around each plant and water it in. Light soils make another application if the plants seem to show a need for it by slow growth. However, too much nitrogen should be avoided, for it produces lush, vegetative growth at the expense of fruit.

When change is well underway, a mulch of half-rotted leaves, old hay, or cut grass can be spread around after a rain and will be beneficial in conserving soil moisture and keeping down weeds. When the plants reach the tops of the supports stop further upward growth by nipping out their tops.

Pests On Tomatoes

Cutworms always seem to be waiting for tasty young tomato plants. Still, their evil work can be thwarted by placing 3″ inch collars of thin cardboard around each and pressing about an inch into the soil, by sprinkling chlordane around and on the stem at the ground fine, or by scattering poison bait between the plants.

When flea beetles become a nuisance, a dusting with rotenone clears them out. If someday you see leaves eaten, look for the big tomato horn-worm, which is fearsome to look at but easy to find and dispose of any way you want.

Blossom-end rot, which shows as a blackened area opposite the stalk, is physiological trouble likely to appear during dry spells, especially after periods of lush growth. The remedy is sufficient water at all times.

Tomatoes In Rainy Weather

In rainy weather, blight may appear, indicated by an unnatural yellowing of the leaves. Keep on hand tomato dust and apply at the first sign of the disease. Mosaic or mottling disease is transmitted from tobacco, so “no smoking” should be the rule when working with tomatoes.

Wash your hands thoroughly if you have handled tobacco before going near your tomato plants. Above all, do not sow the seeds in cigar boxes in early spring.

Many are the varieties available. Recently F, Hybrid Super Tomato plants (Sterns) were made available to home gardeners everywhere. The plants from hand-pollinated seed are hardy, vigorous, and guaranteed insect and disease-free.

The large red fruit is produced early in the season, and the plants continue to bear until killed by a hard frost. Others I’ve grown with great satisfaction are Big Boy, Burpee Hybrid, Moreton Hybrid, and Cardinal.

Traditional varieties such as Glamour, Marglobe, Pritchard, Rutgers, Stokesdale, and Stone arc old favorites in some areas. Yellow tomatoes seem to be gaining in popularity.

Jubilee and Sunray are two good ones. Both produce large, low-acid fruits of excellent quality. Slice with red ones, and you have a handsome and delicious salad plate. Sunray is wilt-resistant.

How To Make Tomato Jam

We like it, especially for a most delicious spiced yellow tomato jam my wife makes, and we eat it either with cold meat or over vanilla ice cream. Here is the recipe:

  • 2 1/2 lbs. tomatoes
  • Two lemons
  • 5 cups sugar
  • One box of powdered pectin oil of cinnamon and cloves

Scald, peel, and crush tomatoes. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Measure 3 cups, add the grated rind of 1 lemon and 1/4 cup of lemon juice—mix powdered pectin with a prepared fruit. Place over high heat and stir until mixture comes to a hard boil. Stir in sugar.

Bring to a full rolling boil, then boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. (A full rolling boil is a steaming, rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.) Remove jam from the heat, add two drops of oil cinnamon and one drop oil of cloves; skim off foam with a metal spoon. Then stir and skim for about 6 minutes.

Ladle into sterilized glasses, leaving 1/2″ inch space at the top, and cover with 1/8″ inch melted paraffin. Makes 8 to 10 glasses. (More or less spice oil may be used to suit your particular taste. We like only a delicate spicing.)

For those who wish, there are also small-fruited varieties such as Red Cherry, Red Pear, Yellow Pear, and Yellow Plum. All are very productive and decorative in the garden and tasty and pretty when used in the salad bowl.

41328 by HENRY E. DOWNER.