Growing Great Tomatoes!

Gaucho Farms Heirloom Vegetable Plant Sale is March 25 - April 2, and one thing we grow a lot of is heirloom tomatoes! 
You can come browse at the farm, or you can pre-order your tomatoes either with our Reserve Form, or actually pre-pay, if you'd like!  If yo order 10 or more plants, be sure to use the coupon code GFP25 to get 25% off your order!!  We'll also deliver your plants to Thompson Chiropractic in Dothan or Living Tree Health Foods in Enterprise on Wednesdays free of charge!

Planting Tomatoes

· Choose a sunny site with fertile, well-drained soil. Mix in a layer of mature compost.

· Dig planting holes at least 18 inches apart, and enrich each with a spadeful of additional compost mixed with a balanced organic fertilizer (look for one that promotes blooming - a little higher in phosphorus).  Crushed eggshells are good, too!

· Plant tomatoes deeper than they grew in their containers, so that only the top five or six leaves show at the surface. Additional roots will grow from the buried section of stem. 

· Prevent cracked fruits by mulching tomatoes heavily in early summer, after the soil has warmed.  

Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds
If you're growing tomatoes for seed-saving, keep in mind that wind and insects can transfer pollen, creating crosses between varieties. For pure seed, save seeds from plants that were grown apart from other tomato varieties. Or isolate a branch with a gauze bag until fruit has set. Mark the branch with red yarn and save the seeds from that fruit only.

Preventing Tomato Pests and Diseases

· Most tomatoes are susceptible to a fungal disease called early blight. The best intervention is to prune off affected leaves with dry, brown patches surrounded by concentric, black rings. as soon as you see them. Removing all leaves within 18 inches of the ground can reduce or delay outbreaks.  

· Prevent blossom end rot by growing tomatoes in fertile soil generously enriched with compost, and mulch heavily to keep soil moisture levels as constant as possible. 

· Be vigilant and pick off larger bugs and put in a cup of soapy water.  Things like leaf-footed bugs and stink bugs can do a lot of damage.  Deter these and other garden pests with a combination of garlic, soap and diatomaceous earth.  We sell this combo in a spray bottle and call it "Bug OFF!", but you can make your own.

· Tomato hornworms (large, green caterpillars w/white stripes) are the larvae of a large moth. Handpick them starting in early summer (follow the trail of pebbly caterpillar droppings to find them). In extremely bad years, control hornworms using Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or spinosad, two widely available biological pesticides. 

· Provide excellent light penetration and air circulation to keep plants dry, reducing the risk of late blight.

· Stake or cage tomatoes to raise them above damp conditions close to the ground.  

Pruning Tomatoes
Here isa link to the most thorough article I've ever seen on pruning tomatoes - complete with how-to videos! http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/pruning-tomatoes.aspx.  A properly pruned and supported single-stem tomato plant presents all of its leaves to the sun. Most of the sugar produced is directed to the developing fruit, since the only competition is a single growing tip.