Grow Your Own Tomatoes

Plant tomatoes in your backyard for a tasty slice of summer.

Story by Gene B. Bussell

We're all for locally grown foods—and you can't get any more local than right outside your door. Even a tiny, sunny patch of earth can become a planting bed. In the summer, there's nothing simpler or more delicious than a tomato sandwich served on white bread with a little mayo. Step it up and make a BLT, or combine sliced tomatoes with fresh basil and mozzarella for a summer salad. No matter which recipe you choose, growing the key ingredient yourself will definitely make it special. And believe us—it will taste better too.

 

Select
The smallest slicing tomatoes are about the size of a baseball; the biggest ones can be larger than a softball. Choose from hybrids or heirlooms in a rainbow of hues—red, pink, black, orange, or yellow. For classic reds, try 'Big Boy,' 'Better Boy,' and 'Celebrity.' For pinks, pick 'Arkansas Traveler,' 'Pink Girl,' and 'Watermelon Beefsteak.' Black selections offer some of the most flavorful tomatoes. Try 'Black Krim' or 'Cherokee Purple.' Orange ones such as 'Persimmon' and 'Kellogg's Breakfast' have fruity flavors, while yellows such as 'Taxi' and 'Lemon Boy' are sweet. Buy them online from totallytomato.com.

 

Try
New to many gardeners are grafted tomatoes, created when one plant is cut and joined to a different one with vigorous rootstock. Grafting offers improved yields and disease resistance. It can be a good choice if space is limited and you need maximum production from each plant. Some heirloom tomatoes, for example, are not as productive as new hybrids, but if you love their flavors and want a bigger yield, you can try a grafted heirloom for the best of both worlds. The benefits of grafting come at a price—up to $12 for a grafted tomato plant in a 1-gallon container. Smaller, less expensive grafted plants are available online from burpee.com.

 

Grow
Tomatoes love full sun, whether in your vegetable garden or large containers (earthbox.com). They like soil that has been amended with lots of organic matter, such as mushroom compost, chopped leaves, or soil conditioner. Rich soil will nourish your plants. Supplement feeding with organic fertilizers. To keep vines off the ground, use twine to tie them to economical bamboo or wooden stakes. You may need to tie plants every other day as they grow. If you are short on time, invest in convenient, reusable tomato cages; try tomatocage.com.