Container Gardening,  Edible Gardening,  Food For Better Health

Tomatoes: Grocery Store Verses Growing Your Own

Springtime!  Time to plant those tomatoes…


I am absolutely sick of grocery store tomatoes!  The skins are so tough and waxy!  To me, they really have no flavor at all.

Did you know….

               growers are paid by the pound to propagate and deliver tomatoes to grocery store distributors

Did you know...

               the majority of grocery store tomatoes have a genetic mutation called the GLK protein, which actually promotes uniformity,

               and their bright red color; however, reduces their natural sugars and sweetness

Did you know

               commercial growers pick tomatoes while they are still green, before they ripen, then spray them with ethylene gas  to turn them red

Two-thirds of the commercially grown tomatoes, during the “out-of-season” months (October to May) are grown in California and Florida.


too humid, pests are widespread

causes growers to use more pesticides on the fruit

they are grown in sand. Sand contains no nutrients, therefore growers experiment with unnatural genetically modified organisms

Read more about GMO’s by clicking here.


Tomato bar at Ingles

If you must buy tomatoes during the off season, here a few tips….

  • Buy tomatoes labeled as being grown in “Hot Houses.”   These are not picked until fully ripened.
  • Buy from a big box store, such as Costco or BJ’s.  They have direct relationships with growers, eliminating middle-man and transportation time.
  • Buy canned from San Marzano, Italy.  They grow tomatoes in the ideal climate, when it is off season in the United States.


Growing your own tomatoes

Tomatoes on the vineLate April, early May is the perfect time to start growing your own tomatoes.

Most tomatoes are red, however, there are many colors and size variations.  Some of the best tasting, but odd looking tomatoes are heirloom varieties, which have been preserved because of their superior flavor.

In most regions, tomatoes are set out as seedlings, when the temperature no longer drops below 55º.

During the summer, you can expect blossom drop when days are above 90ºF and nights are above 76ºF.

Rule of thumb is: the shorter the growing season, for your climate, the more you should limit your choices to the early and early-mid season varieties.

Choosing Determinate vs. Indeterminate

Determinate tomato plants grow to approximately 3 feet tall and ripen a big crop all at one time.  These plants usually do not need stakes.

Indeterminate plants keep growing in every direction until stopped by the cold.  They will need staking or caging.  Most labels will note if the plant is determinate or indeterminate.

If you want plants in and out of your garden by a certain time to make room for other plants, choose determinate cultivars.

If you want a few plants to bear over a long season, choose indeterminate.

I even stagger my planting throughout the early summer, so as to have indeterminate tomato plants growing throughout the entire season.

Growing in containers


tomatoes growing in containerI have great success year after year, growing tomatoes in containers.

Considerations for container growing:

-container must be tall enough, so as to provide plenty of root room

-gardeners with unfavorable soil can control organic matter and fertilizer for the plant

-always provide proper drainage for tomato plants, so as not to drown your plant

Cultivating tomatoes

Tomato fertilizer The soil for tomatoes should be well drained and have an ample supply of nutrients, especially phosphorus.

For soil preparation, use plenty of organic matter and add 3 – 4 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet.

Place water in it and allow two weeks BEFORE PLANTING TOMATO PLANTS.

Set plants deep, with their lowest level of leaves just above soil level.

Remember, those plants needing cages, will need 3 – 4 feet between plants.

The first fertilizer application takes care of the plant until it sets fruit.

Feed once a month while the fruit develops and stop when the it starts to mature.

Tomatoes and Water

water tomatoesBe consistent, alternating wet and dry spells can bring on stunting and blossom end rot.

Remember, plants need uniform moisture after setting fruit.

If plants are not setting fruit, stretch watering intervals to bring on tomato production.

This puts the plant under a little stress, so be careful not to overdo it.

When harvest time is near, cut back slightly on irrigation to get fruit that is flavorful, but not watery.

Rule of thumb: stick your finger down approximately 2-inches from soil surface…if it is dry, it is time to water.

Training your plant

Tomatoes can be grown on upright stakes and trellises, in wire cages, or ladder-like frames set a foot above ground.

You can harvest more fruit over a longer period by allowing a branch to grow from the base to form a two-stemmed plant, and later removing the rest of the lower branches on both stems.

For early fruit production and later sun protection, remove all branches on the lower 18-inches of the stem, then let the plant bush out with the branches being supported by cages or gently tied to stakes.


Pick fresh tomatoes just before using.

A ripe tomato at peak flavor is fully colored on all sides – except right where the fruit meets the stem, here it will be slightly greenish.

Tomatoes should be soft, but not firm.

Tomato flavor is much fuller at room temperature.  Just place uncut tomatoes on the counter, out of direct sunlight.

Now put those delicious home grown tomatoes to work.

My Homemade Crock Pot Tomato Sauce Recipe


Let me know if you are planting any tomatoes this year and if you have any questions, we will answer them promptly.








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