By Jannie Vaught
This is the big question most gardeners get, and it is simply the fact that after the winter and a slow spring we are hungry for a homegrown tomato.
Here are some numbers, and they also can vary due to soil temperatures and when they were planted in the garden. After you have started them inside lovingly under lights and a heating pad, then finally the soil is 60 degree, and the weird cold spells have slowed you get them in the garden. And we watch over them for any cold or bug remotely approaching them. Then we feed and stake and prune off all the succors and finally a flower.
Yes, we got this far!
There are thousands of varieties and they all fall under a few broad categories. Cherry, sauce, and beefsteak. Cherry is small and very sweet, and very prolific. You can stand and pick tiny cherry tomatoes for a long time and are the first to ripen. Sauce tomatoes are Roma, Amish Paste, and Big mama, for example, they are unusually big rich and lower in water content. Used to make sauce. We do use them sliced on occasion as they don’t get the burger bun to wet. Beefsteak such as Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple, and Brandywine. These have the biggest fruit and the greatest range of flavor. Then there is the often overlooked trait, are they determinant, meaning genetically they will only produce grow and live for a certain amount of time and indeterminate, meaning they will grow and produce till the frost comes and will continue to grow through the season till hard frost.
Now some consider the position of the moon and stars, such as the Farmers Almanac and Biodynamic growers. Its all about the state of the moon if its filling or waining. And for many of us we have seen this to be true. When the moon is getting full plant the things that grow above the ground and if it’s getting small or waining plant the ones that grow underground. Of course, there are finer points to this so use their calendars.
So here are some numbers, Early varieties, a growing time of after transplanting 45 to 55 days. The beefsteak variety is roughly 70 to 75 days, with some being longer. Sauce varieties are about 80 days. Small varieties are 65 to 70 days. and the often longer goes to the big heavy types like Cherokee purple and Brandywine are 100 days, so there are variations even with the types. So when the questions are asked when are those tomatoes going to get ripe I say “when they want to!” There are so many factors, from soil, feeding, sun, and temperatures to calculate it no wonder we are at an all-time Happy place when the first tomatoes are ripe and ready for that first delicious bite. And even though this is a lot of work it is worth every moment. Especially when you get to share with your neighbor and you see that look on their face at the first taste of your homegrown tomatoes.
Its time to steak and prune my tomatoes, hope you are enjoying the beauty of our Hill Country.
Growing green with Jannie