Avalanche of Tomatoes

The Jersey Tomato. No other vegetable (technically a fruit) evokes as much passion in South Jersey gardeners as that big, round, red globe that makes its annual appearance starting in July. Of course, there are many sizes and colors of tomatoes available these days, so most gardeners grow several different types. To maximize your harvest and lengthen your season, I'd like to share several tips that will give you endless tomatoes into October.

The first and most important is starting with indeterminate tomato varieties. Indeterminates will grow throughout the season as opposed to determinates, which will bear all their fruit in two to three weeks and then stop producing.

Second is developing a massive root structure by stripping off one to two sets Rolling Tomato Man of leaves on your seedlings and planting six to eight inches of the main stem three to four inches deep in a trough below the surface. Tomatoes will develop roots along the entire length of the stem buried below the surface and thus eliminate the need for pruning.

The third tip is to plant two or three plants in tomato cages that have been constructed out of 60-inch high reinforcement wire. By putting several plants in one cage, you'll double your harvest in the same space normally taken by one plant. These plants will routinely grow eight to ten feet tall over the season. To keep the tomato express rolling, I like to add some slow release fertilizer later in the season. By providing sufficient water, especially in August and September, you'll keep the harvest going.

I just ask one favor. Please don't blame me if your family and friends lock their doors and close their blinds when they see you coming with more tomatoes every few days.

Jim Duncan, Plot # 22