INDETERMINATE: (climbing) varieties should be staked, trellised, or caged, and pruned for best results; fruit ripens over an extended period.
CULTURE: GROWING SEEDLINGS: Don’t start too early! Root-bound, leggy plants that have open flowers or fruit when planted out may remain stunted and produce poorly. Sow in flats, using a soilless peat-based mix (NOT potting soil), 5-6 weeks before plants can be transplanted out after frost danger. Keep temperature of the starting mix at 75-90°F (24-32°C); tomato seeds germinate very slowly in cooler soil. When first true leaves develop, transplant into plug trays or 3-4″ pots for large, stocky 7-8 week transplants for earliest crops. Grow seedlings at 60-70°F (16-21°C). Water only enough to keep the mix from drying. Fertilize with fish emulsion or a soluble, complete fertilizer.
TRANSPLANTING OUTDOORS: Transplant into medium-rich garden or field soil 12-24″ apart for determinate varieties, 24-36″ apart for indeterminate, unstaked varieties, and 14-20″ for staking. Water seedlings with a high-phosphate fertilizer solution (see Index). For earliest crops, set plants out around the last frost date under floating row covers (see Index) which will protect from frost to about 28°F (-2°C). If possible, avoid setting out unprotected plants until night temperatures are over 45°F (7°C). Frost will cause severe damage!
FERTILIZER: Abundant soil phosphorus is important for early high yields. Too much nitrogen causes rampant growth and soft fruits susceptible to rot.
DISEASES: Learn the common tomato diseases in your area. Select resistant varieties. For prevention, use young, healthy transplants, avoid overhead irrigation, plow in tomato plant refuse in the fall, rotate crops, and do not handle tobacco or smoke before handling plants. Fungicides can reduce certain diseases when properly selected and applied.
BLOSSOM END ROT: Prevent it by providing abundant soil calcium and an even supply of soil moisture.
INSECT PESTS: Use row covers to protect young seedlings from flea beetles. Tomato hornworms can be controlled with bacillus thuringiensis. Use spinosad for potato beetle larvae and adults.
HARVEST: Fully vine-ripen fruit only for local retailing or use. To deliver sound fruit, pick fruit less ripe the further the distance and the longer the time between the field and the customer.
STORAGE: Store firm, ripe fruit 45-60°F (7-16°C) for 4-7 days.
DAYS TO MATURITY: From transplants.
TRANSPLANTS: Avg. 850 plants/1,000 seeds, 7,450 plants/oz., 119,000 plants/lb.
AVG. PLANTING RATE: Avg. 785 seeds/667 plants to produce 1,000 ft. of row. Avg. 8,540 seeds/1 oz., to produce 1 acre of transplants, 18″ between plants in rows 4′ apart (7,260 plants needed).