Ag Biz news column
County Extension Agent—Ag/NR
Tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable crop grown in Texas. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Tomatoes can be grown in containers, flower beds, greenhouses, commercial and home gardens alike.
Tomatoes grow well in most areas of Texas. Tomatoes require a well-drained soil with at least six hours of sunlight. When deciding to grow tomatoes, determine if you want to grow them from seed or use transplants, which is the most common way to grow tomatoes.
Tomato varieties come in various sizes. We can grow a number of varieties of tomatoes in the Smith County area. Large tomato varieties that are greater than 12 ounces include Better Boy, Big Beef, Brandywine, Early Big Red, Floradade, Mountain Glory, and Pik Rite. Medium varieties that are 4 to 11 ounces include Carnival, Celebrity, Golden Jubilee, Mountain Spring, Porter Improved, and Ultra Sweet. Paste variety tomatoes include Chico and Roma. Small varieties less than 3 ounces in size include Cherry Grande, Small Fry, and Sunsugar all to name a few of the various sizes.
Tomatoes are very sensitive to frost. It is important to wait to plant tomatoes until the chance of frost has past. Many farmers will stake or cage their tomatoes once planted. This helps provide support for the plant as it grows and produces fruit.
Tomatoes, like any other plant, require nutrients and water. It is important to water tomato plants slowly and deeply to help develop a strong root system. Avoid allowing the tomato plant from becoming too dry or to the point of wilting as this will affect yields and fruit quality.
It is also important to periodically scout the tomato plants for insect and disease damage. Common insects of tomatoes include aphids, whiteflies, various cut and fruit worms, and spider mites to name a few. Common disease or disorders included blossom-end rot, anthracnose, early and late blight, and leaf spots to name a few.
Blossom-end rot is a physiological disorder and is not considered a disease. Blossom-end rot can affect fruit at all stages of development. The characteristic symptom is a progressive deterioration of the blossom end of the fruit, from a water-soaked appearance to a sunken, black, leathery lesion. While secondary fungal infections may occur, blossom end rot is a physiological disorder caused by calcium deficiency induced by water stress. Careful water management practices are a key. Irrigation and/or mulching are important. Application of lime or calcium prior to planting may help reduce blossom-end rot. Liquid fertilization using calcium nitrate can be used for small plots.
When harvesting tomatoes, be sure to pick them at full color for the best quality. Some tomatoes may be harvested early and allowed to ripen in the kitchen at room temperature. Most tomato varieties are ready to harvest, depending on the variety, at 60 to 90 days after transplanting.
Some grow tomatoes for their own enjoyment while others grow them to market. Either way tomatoes are a popular vegetable crop and can be prepared in a number of ways. Whether you slice a tomato for your sandwich, add tomatoes to a stew, or just slice one up and eat it, a nice juicy tomato can be delicious and nutritious. With the right conditions, nutrients and moisture, you too can enjoy a bountiful harvest of your favorite tomato varieties.
Educational programs sponsored by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, religion, disability, age or national origin.