The Joys of Growing Your Own Tomatoes
Is there anything better than a homegrown tomato?
These plump, juicy vegetables are perfect added to salads, mixed in sauces, or even eaten by themselves—like an apple.
Along with being a kitchen staple, tomatoes have incredible health benefits. Here are a variety of ways tomatoes are good for you from Organic Facts:
- Filled with Antioxidants
- Protect the Heart
- Counter the Effect of Smoking Cigarettes
- Improve Vision
- Aid in Digestion
- Lower Hypertension
- Manage Diabetes
- Improve Skin
- Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
- Prevent Gallstones
- Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
Types of Tomatoes
There are so many different varieties of tomatoes that range from tiny grape tomatoes to big beefsteak tomatoes. The color of a tomato can also range from green or orange to classic red or even a deep chocolate.
However, there are two main types of tomatoes, according to Grow It Organically:
Determintate tomatoes are bush types that grow 2-3 feet tall, then the buds at the ends of all the branches form flowers instead of leaves. They flower all at once, set and ripen fruit, then die.
Indeterminate tomatoes are vining types that need caging or staking for support, but will continue to grow and set fruit until frost kills them. They’re generally later than determinate tomatoes and produce larger crops over a longer period.
Indeterminate tomatoes set flowers on lateral shoots off the main stems. If trained to a single or double leader and given support, many indeterminate tomato varieties can reach 8-10’ tall.
Growing Tomatoes in Containers
Just because you don’t live in a home with a generous front or backyard, that doesn’t mean you should go without delicious homegrown tomatoes. When choosing a container for your tomatoes, it is important to remember that this plant has a large root structure that needs room to grow.
Almost any type of tomato can be grown in a container that's the size of half of a whiskey barrel. However, if your containers are smaller, we recommend that you choose a determiniate variety or a patio tomato variety which will happily grow is a smaller space while still providing you with the homegrown tomatoes you crave!
How to Grow Delicious Tomatoes
Like we mentioned before, homegrown tomatoes just taste better. Here are some tips from You Should Grow that we agree will lead to a flavorful product.
1. Tomatoes Need Direct Sunlight
The more sunlight the better when it comes to tomatoes. These plants need at least 6-8 hours to fully grow and become full of flavor.
“By the process of photosynthesis, sunlight is converted to energy in the form of carbohydrates, or sugars, which improve the flavor of your tomatoes.”
- If you're planting early fall tomatoes during our extreme summer heat, we recommend protecting your plant with shade cloth (available by the foot) to initially help your young plant become established.
- If you’ve grown tomatoes in the past that lacked in flavor, try moving them into more direct sunlight and see if you have better results.
2. Tomatoes Need Quality Soil and Compost
When choosing your soil, it is important to choose the one that is right for your location.
SummerWinds Nursery sells a number of ready to use soils, or you can amend existing poor soil in preparation for planting:
- For in-ground planting - We recommend SummerWinds Natural & Organic Planting Mix, or Happy Frog® Soil Conditioner by FoxFarm for a premium upgrade.
- For containers - SummerWinds Organic Potting Soil, or Strawberry Fields® Potting Soil by FoxFarm for a premium upgrade.
To ensure your success:
- Before planting, apply a fertilizer such as E.B. Stone Organics Sure Start or E.B. Stone Organics Tomato & Vegetable Food.
- Water the fertilizer in until it settles.
3. Be Careful When Watering
Did you know that the way you water your tomatoes can impact their flavor? As You Should Grow Notes, “In order to grow flavorful tomatoes, you need to make sure you’re watering on a regular schedule, at the base of the plant, and soaking the soil to provide water down to the deep roots. Tomatoes don’t take up much water from their leaves and wetting the leaves can lead to disease problems. If you only water when they look dry then you’re setting yourself up for less tasty fruits. Over watering will also dilute the flavor of your tomatoes.”
4. Harvest at the Right Time
Your tomatoes are ready for the picking when they have turned the correct color and the bottom on the piece is just soft to the touch. Remember, you don’t want the tomato to be too hard or soft, but it should press a little with your finger.
Cooking with Your Tomatoes
Now that you’ve learned how to grow your own, fresh, delicious tomatoes, it’s time to do something delicious with them!
Here is an incredible pasta sauce recipe to serve to your family (plus it includes enough for extras to store!) from Serious Eats.
The Best Fresh Tomato Sauce Recipe
What You’ll Need:
- 10 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, preferably mixed varieties (such as Romas, Amish Pastes and San Marzanos), cut into large chunks, plus 15 pounds ripe mixed tomatoes, mostly plums with a small portion of other tomatoes (such as beefsteaks), cut into large chunks
- 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
- 1 large yellow onion, minced
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large sprigs fresh basil
- 1 small tomato plant cutting with about 5 leaves (optional)
- Kosher salt
How to Make the Sauce:
- In a large stockpot, heat the 10 pounds plum tomatoes, covered, over high heat, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes dump their liquid. Bring to a boil in covered pot, stirring occasionally, and cook until tomatoes are softened, about 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 275°F and grease several rimmed baking sheets and/or baking dishes with oil. Using a food mill or a stand mixer's vegetable strainer attachment, pass cooked plum tomatoes and all their liquid into a large heatproof container. Discard skins and seeds.
- Pour plum tomato purée into rimmed baking sheets and/or baking dishes, being careful not to overfill them.
- Carefully transfer baking sheets and dishes to oven and bake, checking every 15 minutes and stirring once purée begins to thicken, until a thick, spreadable tomato paste forms, at least 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, fill the same large stockpot with remaining 15 pounds mixed tomatoes (work in batches if your pot can't hold all 15 pounds at once) and cook, covered, over high heat, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes dump their liquid. Bring to a boil in covered pot, stirring occasionally, and cook until tomatoes are softened, about 10 minutes.
- Using food mill or stand mixer's vegetable strainer attachment, pass cooked mixed tomatoes and all their liquid into a large heatproof container. Discard skins and seeds. Measure out 1 quart mixed-tomato purée and set aside.
- Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and sweet, about 8 minutes. Add remaining mixed-tomato purée and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a sauce-like consistency, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in basil and tomato-plant cutting, if using, and let steep for 5 minutes. Discard basil and tomato-plant cutting. Stir in oven-dried tomato paste and reserved tomato purée and season with salt. Use as desired or freeze.
Garden Fresh Salsa
With the Super Bowl coming up, now is a great time to learn a new recipe for fresh and delicious salsa. Here is a recipe from A Healthy Slice of Life that is sure to become a game day favorite.
What You’ll Need:
- 10 fresh Roma tomatoes
- 2/3 cup onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, diced
- 1 poblano pepper, seeds removed, diced
How to Make the Salsa:
- Rinse and dry the tomatoes. Slice the ends off and cut in half.
- Squeeze the tomatoes in your hands to remove juice and seeds.
- Put tomatoes in a large food processor.
- Pulse 4-6 times until the tomatoes reach a thick and chunky consistency.
- Put all remaining ingredients in to the food processor with the tomatoes.
- Pulse 3-5 times until well combined, but still chunky.
- Eat right away or store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Growing Your Own Tomatoes
Whether you’re picking your tomatoes straight from your garden or growing them on your patio and plucking one from a container, these tips will help you enjoy delicious, fresh produce.
After you’ve carefully planted, grown and harvested your tomatoes, you can enjoy their full flavor alone or use them to make a delicious pasta sauce or salsa.
Do you still have questions about growing tasty and hearty tomatoes? We’ve got your answers! Stop by your local SummerWinds Nursery and speak with one of our Trusted Garden Advisors.
At SummerWinds Nursery, our Trusted Garden Advisors can assist you in:
- Picking the best location to grow your garden
- Choosing the proper containers
- Selecting the best plants
- Instructing on how to best care for your plants
About SummerWinds Nursery—a leading high-end retailer of garden and nursery products. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, SummerWinds Garden Centers, Inc. operates retail nurseries in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, and in Silicon Valley, California, making it one of the largest independent retail nursery companies in the nation. SummerWinds appeals to both the serious and casual gardeners, with a broad selection of premium gardening products and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.