Posts

A Seed Ahead: Preserving Tomato Seeds

You’ve had a great season tending to your tomato plants! But with the summer winding down and chilly days coming soon, you may be wondering what to do with your tomato plants now.

Get a head start on spring by preserving the seeds from your tomatoes.

Tomato seeds might be available at the store year-round, but saving your own is satisfying and easy. Luckily, September is the perfect time to begin planning for next year!

How do I pick which seeds to preserve?

The general rule of thumb is to only take ‘open-pollenated’ seeds or heirlooms. Hybrid plants often produce sterile seeds. Or, they do not produce seed with the same desirable traits of the parent plant.

Harvest seeds from tomatoes that are healthy and embody the characteristics you’re interested in preserving. For example, you could pick seeds from the juiciest tomatoes, or the ones with the most interesting colors. It’s your choice, but make sure you pick from healthy plants. Unhealthy plants could carry illnesses.

If possible, save seeds from multiple plants.tomatoes-101845_1920

Method 1: Air-dry

This method is pretty simple. Open the tomato and remove the seeds, squeeze them onto a paper towel, wait for the seeds to air dry and then store them in a jar, an envelope or even the same napkin. This method is quick and straightforward.

Method 2: Ferment

It’s not absolutely necessary to ferment your tomato seeds, but fermenting makes it easier to completely separate seeds from the gel that surrounds them. Fermenting also eliminates the bad seeds and reduces the possibility of seed-borne disease for next season.

1. Wash the tomatoes. Slice each in half across the middle (not the end with the stem). Squeeze the seeds and juice into a (labeled) glass or plastic container.

2. Set containers aside when half-full. Place containers in an area that is out of direct sunlight and out of the way, so the fruit flies and odor will not bother you.

3. Let the seeds sit for three to five days or until the surface of the container shows a whitish mold. This is a good thing! The seeds should be floating at this point. In warmer climates, you may need to add some water to keep the seeds afloat.

4. Gently scrape the mold off with a spoon. Do not remove the seeds.

5. Fill container with water and then stir it. The seeds you want will sink to the bottom.

6. Pour off the excess to remove floating seeds and pulp.

7. Repeat the process until the good seeds, at the bottom, are cleaned.

8. Pour the good seeds into a strainer, then rinse and drain them.

Storage

An airtight container works best for storage. When packaged correctly, tomato seeds remain usable for up to six years!

You can place the seeds in the refrigerator or freezer, but the seeds will last even when stored at room temperature. When you’re ready to use the seeds, if they’ve been chilling in a refrigerator or freezer, let them adjust to room temperature first to prevent excess condensation from creating any damage.

For more tomato tips, check out our total tomato growing guide!

Be sure to visit us on our Facebook page or Twitter page and tell us how you plan to preserve your tomato seeds!

Top Tomato Recipes, Straight from the Garden!

We cannot get enough of fresh summer produce! Whether you started tomato plants from seeds or seedlings, we bet your tomatoes are full of summer flavor.

Whether red, purple, green, yellow or orange, tomatoes are our favorite summer fruit. While some tomatoes are good for canning and preserving, others taste best when used freshly-picked. Try these new recipes to amplify the already amazing summer flavor of your tomatoes.

Preserve tomatoes now to enjoy the sweet rewards of your summer veggie garden long after harvest season is over.

10 Tomato Recipes You Must Try

1. Tomato and sweet onion salad: Make this salad ahead of time for superb flavor come dinner. Bonus points if made with onions and basil also picked from your garden.

2. Risotto stuffed tomatoes: You’ll want to turn on the oven for this one. Use firmed tomatoes that’ve just been picked off the vine.

3. Eggplant, tomato and smoked mozzarella tart: Try this recipe for a twist on the usual Caprese salad. Crispy crust and tender vegetables make this recipe a keeper.

4. Tomato jam: Steer away from tomato sauce by making jam. Enjoy with crackers and cheese for a delicious appetizer.

5. Classic roasted salsa: Jalapenos give this salsa just the right amount of heat. You’ll never buy store-bought again after you’ve made your own salsa.

6. Grilled Green Tomato Tostadas: Green tomatoes don’t always have to be fried, although they certainly are delicious. Black beans, avocadoes and cilantro combine to make these satisfying tostadas.

7. Pasta with sun gold tomatoes: Yellow tomatoes standout in this beautiful pasta dish. Serve with crispy bread and a garden salad for a complete meal.

8. Best Gazpacho: NYTimes offers up this recipe from Seville, Spain. Serve this creamy, orange version in chilled glasses for a refreshing sip.

9. Sliced tomatoes with corn and feta: A simple no-cook meal to enjoy when the nights are warm. Arugula and oregano give this salad a spicy kick.

The list could go on and on. What’s your favorite way to use your freshly-picked tomatoes? Tell us in the comments or share your pictures on our Facebook page

How to Plant Fruits and Veggies in Containers

Short on space? Grow fruits and vegetables in galvanized buckets! Laura from Garden Answer shows you how to plant the perfect companion plants for containers. Try zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and marigolds or raspberries with strawberries.

How Much Water Do My Tomato Plants Need?

Imagine having a successful, bountiful tomato harvest every season — juicy, red tomatoes ready for the kitchen.

The good news? You can! Tomato care isn’t hard.

When it comes to growing tomatoes in your organic vegetable garden, the secret is in the soil. Maintaining consistent soil moisture is crucial for a successful harvest.

When, and how frequently, you should water your tomato plants depends on the variety, size and location.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Start Your Seedlings

When starting tomatoes from seed, the soil can dry out quickly since seedlings are typically in small containers or trays. Check soil daily to ensure it has not dried out.

However, seedlings require very little water. Use a spray bottle to mist seedlings and keep just the top of the soil moist.

If the soil becomes too wet, move the seedlings to an area with increased air flow and hold off on watering again until needed. Never let seedlings sit in a puddle of water.

As seedlings begin to sprout and grow, they will need more water. If the soil in the tray dries in less than 24 hours, it might be time to move your seedlings to the garden or a larger container.

The best way to give your tomatoes the care they need is to closely monitor the plants and the soil moisture weather.

Growing in the Garden

When you plant tomatoes right in the ground, the roots can extend deep into the soil as they seek out water. Water newly planted tomatoes well to make sure soil is moist and ideal for growing.

Early in the growing season, watering plants daily in the morning. As temperatures increase, you might need to water tomato plants twice a day. Garden tomatoes typically require 1-2 inches of water a week.

Container Tomato Plants

Tomato plants grown in containers need more water than garden tomatoes. Soil in containers heats up faster which leads to more water evaporation.

A good rule of thumb for containers is to water until water runs freely from the bottom. Water in the morning and check the soil moisture levels again in the afternoon. If soil feels dry about 1 inch below the surface, it’s time to water again.

Keep Tomatoes Well Fed

Adding organic mulch to tomato plants reduces evaporation in the soil. That means less watering, so you can save time and resources.

Add Espoma’s organic Tomato-tone, a slow release premium plant food, for bigger, healthier roots that can withstand a little drought and excess heat.

There are many factors that affect how much water tomato plants need, such as weather conditions and the size and growth rate of the plant. Every plant is different! The best way to give your tomatoes the care they need is to closely monitor the plants and the soil moisture weather.

Visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.

3 Ways to Support Tomatoes

Soon your tiny tomato plants will transform into gigantic bushes. Help them grow by giving them some extra support.

Tomato plants often bend, lean or even break as fruit matures. To help your plant from being damaged, get to know the tomato you’re planting. Indeterminate plants will continue to grow and will benefit from some support, while determinate tomatoes may be just fine on their own.

Use tomato cages, wood or metal stakes, or a trellis to give plants extra support. It’s really a matter of preference which one you choose. The most important thing is that you’re keeping plants off the ground to avoid pests, diseases and rot.

Put supports in your garden before or at the same time you plant tomatoes. Tomatoes will be easier to maintain, prune and harvest.

Stake

Choose 6’ to 8’ tall stakes made of wood, plastic or bamboo. Or, create your own from recycled materials.

  1. Pound stake firmly into the ground, about 12” deep, beside tomato plant.
  2. Tie stalk loosely to the stake using twine as soon as flowers appear. Stakes will bear the weight of plants as they grow, preventing branches from tipping and breaking.
  3. Continue tying plants to stakes as they grow.
  4. Water tomatoes regularly and fertilize with Tomato-tone every two weeks.

Cage

Cages can be purchased at your local garden center and they’re easy to remove at the end of the season and store for next year’s use. Choose metal, wooden or plastic tomato cages. Metal cages often hold up better and last longer, but are prone to rust.

  1. Choose 6’ cages for indeterminate and heirloom varieties.
  2. Plant tomatoes and center the cage over the center of the plant.
  3. Depending on the full grown size of your tomatoes, set cages about 4’ apart.
  4. Push the tomato cage legs into the dirt until the bottom rung is even with the base of the tomato plant.
  5. Water tomatoes regularly and fertilize with Tomato-tone every two weeks.

Trellis

Trellising your tomatoes offers them support and is a great way to maximize small spaces. They keep tomatoes off the ground and allow for easy pruning.

  1. Push two 6’ poles or wooden posts into the ground, about 10’ apart. Poles should not wobble.
  2. Tie wire or twine between posts, adding lines across the top, bottom and middle.
  3. Plant tomatoes along the length of trellis.
  4. Water tomatoes regularly and fertilize with Tomato-tone every two weeks.
  5. As plant grows, train stems by attaching stems to the trellis using twist ties, wires or twine.

Soon your garden will be filled with delicious ripe tomatoes! For more tips on growing tomatoes, check out our organic gardening guide!

Turn Your Tomato Garden Upside Down

Everyone loves growing tomatoes. And tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow.

This summer, put a new twist on growing tomatoes by adding upside-down tomato planters to your organic vegetable garden.

Growing upside down might seem crazy, but it’s actually the perfect solution for those with limited space.

When choosing a variety, opt for smaller tomatoes like cherry or grape or those best suited for containers. Their small size and light weight prevents them from falling off the vines before they’re ready to eat!

early-girl-cropped

Choose Your Container

Purchase a 5-gallon bucket or container to serve as your planter. Drill a hole about 3” big in the bottom of the bucket. If you’re feeling creative, paint the bucket to match your outdoor décor.

Start Planting

Fill 1/3 of the bucket full with Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix.

Carefully remove the tomato plant from its pot and loosen roots from soil.

Turn the bucket onto its side and put the roots of the plant through the hole. Hold the plant in place while turning the bucket upward.

Fill the bucket half way with Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix.

Pick a spot to hang your planter that gets at least six hours of sun daily. The container will get heavier as the tomatoes grow, so be sure to choose a sturdy base.

Water your upside down planter regularly. And fertilize with Espoma’s Tomato-tone, a premium plant food formulated specifically for growing plump and juicy tomatoes.

Watch this Garden Answer video to see how you can DIY your own upside down planter.

Soon your garden will be filled with delicious ripe tomatoes! For more tips on growing tomatoes, check out our organic gardening guide!

Less is More: How to Successfully Prune Tomatoes

Tiny tomato seedlings can vigorously turn into huge bushes in no time. In fact, they’ve even been known to bend cages and pull stakes out of the ground!

However, when it comes to growing tomatoes, less is more. Fewer leaves mean air circulates better and leaves dry quicker, reducing the risk of disease.

Plants with less density direct energy toward producing bigger fruit. Plus, tomatoes often ripen earlier after a good pruning, allowing you to enjoy your harvest sooner.

Here are some helpful tips for pruning your tomatoes this season.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Pruning 101

1. Find out if your tomato plant is a determinate or indeterminate variety. Determinate varieties often thrive with less attention because they only produce one crop of tomatoes. Indeterminate varieties, on the other hand, require frequent maintenance because they produce tomatoes all season.

2. Pinch or snip flowers until plants are 12-18” tall. When the first green fruit appears, remove all suckers, ie leaves beneath that cluster.

3. Feed throughout the season with Tomato-tone.

4. As the plant continues to fruit and flower, chose a few strong stems to produce tomatoes and prune the rest. Though this results in less fruit, tomatoes will be bigger and juicier.

5. Continue removing unnecessary suckers and flowers at least once a week during peak growing season. Eliminate suckers while they are still small enough to remove by hand. If you need to use a tool, be sure to use a sharp pruner blade to make a clean cut.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Grow Up, Not Out

Tie tomato plants to a support such as a stake or a trellis to promote upward growth. This keeps tomatoes off the ground, keeping pests and diseases at bay. Vertically grown tomatoes are ultimately easier to prune because unnecessary suckers and leaves are more visible.

Though plants may now be better protected from insects and disease, staked and pruned plants may be more susceptible to blossom end rot and sunscald. Get a better harvest than you ever thought possible by giving tomatoes what they need!

Ready to learn more? Check out our guide to growing organic tomatoes for more information!

Simple Steps to Planting Tomatoes

Seeing red tomatoes peek through the green leaves in your garden is a true sign that summer is here. The first harvest of the season provides opportunities to finally try those delicious garden-to-table recipes.

Tomatoes are a staple in every organic garden. And growing them doesn’t have to be difficult.

Start planting today and you’ll have a delicious harvest in no time.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Start Growing

1. Choose a few of your favorite tomato varieties and get ready to plant!

2. Choose a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.

3. Check the plant tag to see how far apart plants should be.

4. Dig holes larger than the tomatoes’ original container.

5. Set the plant in the hole so its lowest leaves are below the soil level. Go ahead and pinch those lower leaves off now.

6. Mix in an organic starter plant food, such as Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong.

7. Fill the hole with amended soil or Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil.

8. Once established, feed tomatoes by mixing in 3 tablespoons of Espoma’s Tomato-tone per plants. Organic Tomato-tone provides tomatoes the nutrients they need to grow big and plump. Since this is a slow-release, organic fertilizer, Tomato-tone never forces rapid growth, which reduces tomato yield.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Keys to Success

Stake tomatoes now to increase air circulation and sunlight exposure.

Support plants with a tomato cage, trellis or container. Stakes work, too. Hammer 6-8” stakes into the ground 3-6” away from the plant. When tomatoes begin blooming, tie them to the stake.

Water tomatoes generously for the first few days after planting. Then, give tomatoes 2” of water at their roots per week.

Feed tomatoes with organic Tomato-tone monthly for larger, plumper tomatoes all season.

Add 2-3” of mulch in 3-5 weeks to reduce water consumption.

If you’re looking for more info on tomatoes, such as growing heirloom tomatoeshybrid tomatoes or non-red tomatoes, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.

The Easiest Tomatoes to Grow

Depending on what you’re making and where you live, some tomatoes really are better! With more than 7,500 varieties, you have to know exactly what you’re looking for.

So whether you say to-may-to or to-mah-to, we’re here to help you choose the easiest tomato variety for you.

Cherry Tomatoes ­­are the easiest tomatoes for beginners to grow. They produce crop after crop and have very few problems! Here are a few of the best.

Super sweet 100 tomatoes.

Super sweet 100 tomatoes.

Super Sweet 100

The name says it all – these are sweet and easy. Just one plant can bear more than 1,000 tomatoes. Super Sweet 100s grow in long strands or clusters of more than 100 tomatoes. You’ll have thousands of tomatoes that are high in Vitamin-C by the end of the season.

  • Disease Resistance: V, F and N
  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 60-70 days
  • Taste and Texture: Super sweet and juicy with a firm texture
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 8-12’
  • Spacing: 18-36” apart
  • Staking: Yes – Cage or stake

Napa Grape

This classic tomato tastes and looks just like its bigger rivals, but has a higher sugar content than any other grape tomato. Known to be one of the tastiest tomatoes out there, the Napa Grape produces sweet tomatoes that taste yummy in salads or as snacks.

  • Disease Resistance: Very disease resistant
  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 65 days
  • Taste and Texture: Sugary with a firm texture
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 4-6’
  • Spacing: 24-36” apart
  • Staking: Yes – Cage or stake

Golden Nugget

These sweet tasting tomatoes love cool weather and can withstand the heat. Looking more like tangerines than tomatoes, Golden Nuggets ripen early and produce lots of fruit.

  • Disease Resistance: V and F
  • Growth Type: Determinate
  • Time to Maturity: 55-65 days
  • Taste and Texture: Balanced, mild with a hint of sweetness and a thin skin
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 2-3’
  • Spacing: 18-24” apart
  • Staking: No
Yellow Pear Tomato

Yellow Pear Tomato

Yellow Pear

Tangy, beautiful and tiny, Yellow Pear tomatoes look charming in salads or as snacks. A favorite of chefs, these dynamic tomatoes love to sprawl, so contain them with a cage or stake.

  • Disease Resistance: Not susceptible to blossom end, but can develop early blight
  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 75-80 days
  • Taste and Texture: Tangy yet mild with a slightly firm and mealy texture
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 6-12’
  • Spacing: 24-36” apart
  • Staking: Yes – Cage or stake

 

Sungold tomato

Sun gold tomato

Sun Gold

These orange tomatoes taste like tropical fruit and thrive in hot, sultry climates. Grown in long clusters of 10-15 tomatoes, Sun Golds produce fruit well into fall. Plus, these cherry tomatoes can be grown in containers.

  • Disease Resistance: V, F and T
  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 55-65 days
  • Taste and Texture: Sweet and fruity taste with a firm, crisp texture
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 5-10’
  • Spacing: 24-36” apart
  • Staking: Yes – Cage or stake

 

Go forth, and grow! When you’re organic gardening, be sure to feed tomatoes lots of Tomato-tone during the growing season.  

And if you’re looking for more info on tomatoes, such as growing heirloom tomatoeshybrid tomatoes or non-red tomatoes, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.