Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes… What’d life be without home grown tomatoes. Only 2 things that money can’t buy … That’s true love and home grown tomatoes.
Well … God bless John Denver. He wrote that song because he knew just how important “Home Grown Tomatoes” were.
I’m in my 60s now and have been prepping for a while. Like all preppers, my mind wanders to “what ifs” just about every day. Beans and rice – protein and carbs and what about vitamin C? What about food fatigue? Couldn’t tomatoes be a part of the solution? I suspect so. Homegrown tomatoes aren’t just great tasting, they’re full of vitamin C which can be hard to come by in a grid down situation.
When I was just 14 … I was assigned the task of caring for the garden which consisted of about 18 tomato plants. Late July was hot. As I said, I was 14 so I couldn’t drive so the neighborhood girls were starting to look hot, too. I immediately turned my attention to the tomato patch.
After I turned over the soil and planted, I watered. I figured that would be just about all there was to it. But, I started seeing things. Bad things. Yellowing leaves, bugs, and tomatoes with blacked ends. I had questions and no answers.
Food … plant food I mean. In the 60s if you wanted fertilizer, you might have used something like Rapid-gro or one of the other high nitrogen products being made available to a growing population of hobbyist gardeners. When I used these products the plants turned green … real green and …. they quit flowering. No flowers, no tomatoes. We grew one tomato plant against the west wall of the house that got to be about 12 feet tall and had not even one tomato on it. One hot summer night the neighbors snuck into the tomato patch and tied balls all over that plant.
On the softballs, it said, “Hi I’m a Bigboy” and on the baseballs … “Hi, I’m a Better boy”; and on the golf balls … “Hi … I’m a cocktail tomato.”
More food … for thought – plant food I mean … All fertilizers have three numbers that tell you what is in it and that tells you what you can use it for. The first number is nitrogen content. The second number is the phosphate content and the third is the potash. Balanced fertilizers like 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 are fine for green things like grass, or food plants like lettuce or root crop but, not the best for plants that you want to flower … like flowers or a plant upon which the food comes from the flower-like squash or eggplant and yes… tomatoes. A high nitrogen fertilizer (and there are a bunch of ‘em), will, as I tried to tell you before, stop the plant from flowering. Don’t Do That. That’s right … no flowers no tomatoes. The fertilizer you should be using is a “bloom booster.” It has a very high middle number and that makes great roots and also makes the plant flower. Lots of flowers mean lots of tomatoes … You might consider storing bloom boosters for bad times. If not… then just stick to compost. I learned my lesson.
Water … God’s and yours combined I mean. At 14 I figured that if I watered the plants a lot I’d get tomatoes a lot. Don’t Do That. The rule of thumb is about an inch per week. That includes God’s water. I want to mention two things here. Rain is always better than city water. City water has chlorine and the plants don’t appreciate that much, and rain has more nitrogen. I am told it is due to lightening. The other thing I want to say is this. You’ve seen tomatoes split from too much water too fast because the skin can’t stretch fast enough right? Well, what do you think all that extra water is doing to the flavor of your tomato? That’s right… it dilutes the sugars and acids and makes it taste just like a winter tomato. A winter tomato is one thing money will buy. If you have a bunch of tomatoes you’re planning to harvest, withhold water for a day or two and taste the difference. I learned my lesson.
Diseases … fungus and wilt I mean. These diseases plague everyone who grows tomatoes. Heirloom plants are far more susceptible to these maladies than the resistant hybrids. If you plant an heirloom tomato seed and raise a tomato and save the seeds from that tomato and plant those seeds, you will get the same tomato plant (mostly). That’s a big reason why preppers want to save heirloom seeds. I get it. I tried it. After about four seasons of heirloom tomato plant failures, my wife finally said to me “You can’t even grow a tomato.” I said “But Honey! I’m prepping?” I’m not certain what is causing fungal overgrowths and wilt at these accelerated paces. It seems worse now than it used to be. I’ve heard some say that the constant metal chemtrail spraying is blocking enough sunlight that it’s allowing these common tomato diseases to run rampant. Whatever it is, it’s a serious problem that requires an equally “serious” solution.
Diseases cont. … the ones that you caused with water I mean. Tomato crop failures occur mostly because of leaf destruction due to wilt and/or fungus. Just like in your socks, it’s all about moisture and lack of air-flow. If you get greedy and want lots of tomatoes and plant your plants so close together that they’re touching, you stop the air low and that keeps the leaves damp. Fungus is going to take hold. Don’t Do That. If you water your tomato plants with a sprinkler you’ll wet the leaves and help the fungus grow on them. Don’t Do That. Plant your plants far enough apart that they have air all around them. Water the tomatoes at the soil level and not with a sprinkler that wets the entire plant. Cut off the leaves at the bottom of the plant up to about a foot so they don’t lie upon the damp soil and pick up leaf diseases. One more thing now. I have a friend to whom I gave about six Supersonic plants last year. He likes to plant all sorts of tomatoes. The fungus and wilt from the other tomato species attached themselves to the Supersonics and they were all wiped out. OMG Don’t Do That. If you feel that you just have to plant heirloom tomatoes fine. Keep them away from the Supersonics as insurance so you will still have an acceptable yield.
Pests … bugs I mean. Healthy tomato plants aren’t as prone to insect destruction as are some other crops, but there are some real causes for concern. Cutworms will walk along with the soil and cut the plant off right at the soil level. Putting some aluminum foil around the stem at the base and up an inch or two and that will stop that. The other pest to watch for is the Tomato Hornworm. The “mother” of this thing is the Sphinx Moth and the offspring (larvae) child looks like a 4” green snake. These guys are bigger than a man’s thumb and can eat about 1/4 of a plant in one night. They are nocturnal mostly, hiding at the lower sections of the plant during the day. Hand-picking them is the most effective way to get rid of them. You can find them by looking for their black droppings (on the leaves or on the ground) and then look above that. “Water seeks its own level” … and Hornworm poop falls straight down. Their pupae drop off the plant and burrow into the soil to grow until the next generation. Roto-tilling after the tomato harvest can kill up to 90% of them. If after picking these green vandals off your plants, you can’t stand the thought of stepping on something that size … throw them against a hard surface. Or, if you like the idea of recycling … go put them on the edge of the birdbath and run. They won’t last long there and the birds will “tweet” about you later. “# Dinner and a show”. You’ll be trending. Where tomatoes are concerned I don’t really mind using “tomato dust” or “Sevin dust”. Tomatoes have a very washable skin.
Seeds … “Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds” (Deuteronomy) I mean. I am going to suggest one “serious” solution that will draw (some) ire from some preppers, but I am doing this with your best interests in mind. Three years ago I planted Supersonic tomato seeds. I had spectacular results. I had six plants only and had all the fresh tomatoes that a family of six needed, some to give away and enough at the end of the season to make a great marinara sauce to freeze and store for winter use “and it was good.” Supersonic F1 hybrid seeds (plants) are fungus and wilt resistant. They worked where the heirloom plants failed. And yes … now my wife says that I grow great heaps of good tomatoes.
Taste … you want to do things in good taste I mean. Supersonic F1 tomato plants are heavy producers of medium-sized fruit that have high sugar and acid content; not pulpy like Beefsteak varieties and the like. This makes them my first choice for sandwiches, salads, a great sauce tomato, and when picked green … makes the best fried-green tomatoes you’ll ever have. Now because Supersonic seeds are an F1 hybrid, they won’t run true if you save the seeds from the tomatoes you grow. I’ve tried it. They revert into the two parent plants. You get a nice tasting medium-sized tomato and a nice tasting cocktail (or perhaps wild) tomato. And really, what’s wrong with that in an emergency?
Seed saving … Tomato preparedness I mean. As I said above, you can’t plant the seeds from a Supersonic tomato and get a Supersonic tomato. So … If you want a reliable way to grow good tomatoes when things get tough, you’ll just have to store some Supersonic seeds. Supersonic tomatoes were bred by the Harris Seed Company. I am saying that they have hit a home-run here. In my opinion, they have saved the prepping community from a tomato-free future. I store Supersonic seeds in a quart jar with oxygen absorbers to extend the viability. Right now … 500 seeds cost $13.20. 1000 seeds cost $21.65 and 5000 seeds are $93.00 and so on. Seeds won’t last forever so you might handle these like canned goods. Buy some every year or two and rotate them out of your inventory. To that end, I talked with Richard Chamberlin the owner of Harris Seed Company and he told me that (for a limited time) if you purchase some bulk seeds and if you reference a RuralSurvival.info code* 5PRP071, Harris Seeds will give you free shipping. I feel strongly enough about this to encourage you to take him up on his kind offer.
Experts … I’m not one I mean. There is more to growing tomatoes than I’ve mentioned here and this is not the definitive work on growing tomatoes. This is intended to be a quick-start guide for folks that want to grow tomatoes in today’s diverse climates, or under grid-down circumstances, or just want cheap good-tasting chemical-free food.
Homegrown tomatoes … love I mean.
C’mon all you enemies of the state; click the link and sing it with me.
There ain`t nothin` in the world that I like better
Than bacon `n lettuce `n homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin`, out in the garden
Get you a ripe one, don`t pick a hard `un
Best of Luck and Thanks,
Rik in far west St. Charles County.