Tomatoes come in various shapes, colours, sizes and textures. How to select according to your taste, maturity, space and climate. Should you plant or seed

As soon as the earth is warm to the touch and the sun is smiling down, we know that spring has truly arrived. And with spring, thoughts turn to the vegetable garden and the excitement of a brand-new season!

Every home gardener who grows vegetables will tell you that tomatoes are their pride and joy, and for good reason: there is nothing like the taste of a home-grown, sun-ripened, juicy tomato fresh from the garden. Whatever the variety, nothing says summer better!

Tomato plants and Varieties

Tomatoes come in so many different shapes, colours, sizes and textures, from somewhat acidic to slightly sweet. Not surprising then that tomatoes are the fruit most consumed all over the world, and the most popular choice among home gardeners. Raw, cooked, preserved, in a salad, salsa, condiment, sauce or coulis: the versatile tomato can do it all!

Consider the following criteria to help you choose:

Size, taste, colour, use

There are literally thousands of cultivars and so many ways to use them, so you’ll have to do your research. Some tomatoes have a lot of seeds, and others very few or none at all. Some have thicker skin, others have dense and meaty flesh. In addition to the traditional red tomato, there are white, yellow, black, pink, blue, purple, orange and bicolour varieties as well. And they are polymorphous: flat, spherical, heart-shaped, pear-shaped, and even horn-shaped!

Days to maturity

Early maturing varieties are harvested 55 days after transplanting, whereas late varieties are harvested after 85 days. Space and climate permitting, choose at least three varieties with staggered maturing dates in order to ensure a continuous harvest.

Climate

Since tomatoes require a lot of sun and heat, the climate of your region could influence your choice. In northern climates where the summer is shorter and not as hot, early maturing varieties should be favoured over late varieties.

Space

There are two types of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate.

  • Determinate tomatoes, or bush tomatoes, grow to a compact height, generally 1 metre, and they stop growing after producing a number of clusters. All tomatoes ripen early and at approximately the same time. Although less bountiful, the fruit is just as delicious. Ideal for container planting on balconies.
  • Indeterminate tomatoes will grow and produce fruit until the first frost. These climbers can reach a height of 2 metres and must be pruned and staked. More stems, more leaves, more flowers, and by extension, more fruit. They also need more space, which makes them ideal for the vegetable garden or flowerbeds in open ground. They may be planted in containers, providing the containers are large enough.

Choose your plants

Terreau de plants de tomates

There are two ways to grow your tomatoes: buy plants or start from seed.

Purchase plants

If you are a novice when it comes to growing tomatoes or if you’d prefer to skip the seeding step, buy your plants from a greenhouse or garden centre. Choose plants that are 15 to 20 cm high, with stems the diameter of a pencil; they’re more likely to succeed and remain healthy.

Grow from seed

If you want to grow organic or if your garden centre doesn’t have the variety you’re looking for, you should start your plants from seed. No need to panic! It’s relatively simple.

  1. Wait till mid-March to plant your seeds.
  2. Put 2 to 3 cm of gravel in the bottom of your container so water will not stagnate at the bottom, which will rot the roots.
  3. Add seeding mix to fill 2/3 of the container, lightly pack, then fill. You can also make your own seeding mix by combining one-part compost, one-part peat moss and one-part vermiculite.
  4. Plant seeds approximately 0.5 cm deep and spaced 4 cm apart.
  5. Moisten the earth regularly with a sprayer.
  6. Cover the seeds with a cover or plastic sheet. Seeds germinate best at warm room temperature, so maintain a room temperature of 18° to 20°C.
  7. When sprouts appear, generally after 7 to 10 days, remove the cover or plastic sheet. This will release moisture, which can cause disease, and expose the sprouts to light.
  8. Two to three weeks later, when your seedlings have 5 or 6 leaves, repot them into larger containers (8 to 10 cm).
  9. Use a growing mix when you transplant. You can make this yourself by combining two-parts compost, one-part vermiculite and one-part peat moss.
  10. Plant in earth half way up the plant to encourage the development of a good root system. Add tomato fertilizer.
  11. Keep in a warm place with plenty of sun exposure and keep the earth moist.
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