Time to Brighten Up the Garden! Tomato Growing Tips

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Brandy Boy Hybrid Tomato (Burpee)

Tomato transplanting time is nearly here in my neck o’ the woods and I can hardly wait.  The vibrant colors, fresh off the vine flavors, and versatility make tomatoes one of my favorite garden crops.  I can smell the spaghetti sauce simmering and taste the tomato pie already!

A terrific resource for selecting tomato types is the Tomato Report from Penn State University’s College of Agriculture, which is designed to introduce new tomato varieties and to help growers grow the best tomatoes each season.

Ranking high on the 2011 report, Burpee’s ‘Brandy Boy’ (one of my favorites in our garden) took top honors among Slicers, Burpee’s ‘Bush Early Girl’ is listed as “top of the Heap” for container tomatoes, Johnny’s Select Seeds ‘Sakura Honey’ gets the nod for standout flavor in Cherry/Grape, and Burpee’s ‘Brandywine’ is noted as “the tomato against which many others are compared” in the Heirloom category.

We contacted the folks at Burpee to snag a few tips from these experts on how to grow the best tomatoes.  Spacing (set 30 to 48 inches apart in a row with the rows spaced 48 inches apart) and support (staking or caging your plants) were some of the expected responses, but they also had some insightful pro tips to offer:

For Early Pest Prevention: Wrap the tomato stems with a piece of cardboard or wax paper that extends an inch above and below the soil to protect them from cutworms. A regular office stapler can be used to secure the material in a circle. After the stems toughen up in 3 to 4 weeks cutworm damage will no longer be a concern and the paper will have rotted away.

Mulching for Moisture:  Mulching can help to insure an even supply of moisture is available to the tomato plant. Try putting down a layer of newspaper 5 to 10 sheets thick between the rows (soak the papers in water first, so they won’t blow away) and then cover the newspapers with dry grass clippings, bark mulch, etc.

(You can find additional tips and information on Burpee’s full line of seeds and products at http://www.burpee.com/)

What are your favorite tomato varieties?  Do you have pro tips to share?  What works the best for you?

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Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an author and sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky. When she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s writing about country living and artisan culture.
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    • Kassidy N.
    • April 25, 2012

    Thanks for the cutworms tip, I have not seen that before. And I did not know that there was a tomato report.

    Very helpful!

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