In Canada, tomatoes have unequivocally secured their spot as the number one crop for enthusiastic gardeners. The versatility and adaptability of tomato plants make them an ideal choice for both seasoned horticulturists and beginners. With a wide range of varieties available, gardeners can choose from cherry tomatoes bursting with sweetness to beefsteak tomatoes perfect for slicing and grilling. Tomatoes thrive in most of the country, benefiting from the warm summers and extended daylight hours. Cultivating tomatoes at home allows gardeners to experience the joy of growing fresh, flavourful produce while enjoying the satisfaction of nurturing plants from seedlings to ripe, juicy fruits.
The bountiful harvests of homegrown tomatoes contribute to a sustainable and cost-effective lifestyle, reducing reliance on store-bought produce. From patio containers to backyard gardens, tomatoes have unquestionably earned their position as the number one crop for home gardeners in Canada, offering a rewarding and delicious gardening experience.
Plant your tomatoes after the risk of frost. Choose a spot that gets at least six hours of sun a day and plan for them to take 60 to 100 days to reach maturity, depending on the variety. Here are the top tips for growing tomatoes in your garden or planter.
1. When transplanting tomatoes into a bed or container, prepare the site with a sandy loam with organic matter like compost to create a well-drained but moisture-retaining medium. Dig a hole big enough to bury the transplants up to their necks. Remove the bottom foliage, leaving as little as the top four branches.
2. Space bush varieties as close as a foot and a half apart, but do not crowd heirloom and indeterminate (vining) varieties.
3. Pinch off suckers (secondary branches growing from the crotch of a main branch) every four days or so. Not necessary with determinate plants.
4. Once the first fruits are set, feed the plants with manure tea or diluted fish fertilizer. Repeat every two weeks for best results.
5. Oddly shaped tomatoes are caused by a cold snap during pollination.
6. “Blossom-end rot” (ugly wound-like patches on the bottom of the fruit are caused by a period of drought followed by copious rain. To prevent it, mulch heavily and ensure each plant gets an inch of water (rain included) each week.
7. Discoloured and wilted leaves may be caused by a fungus called verticillium wilt. Rotate your crops and, if needed, buy resistant cultivars.
8. Don’t pick tomatoes until they are fully ripe.
9. For the best flavour, stop watering a week before you want to harvest your last tomatoes. They’ll ripen more quickly.
10. When the first frost threatens, pick all the green tomatoes. The whitish ones can be ripened indoors, wrapped in newspaper or stacked in a cardboard box with a lid. Transform the rest into green-tomato chili sauce.
How many plans to grow? Find Harrowsmith’s food garden planning chart for tomatoes, potatoes, beans and 10 other crops.