Farm Focus: Tomato Time!

tomato with sun cracksIt is that time of year again, we’re planting tomatoes! To me, getting our tomatoes in the ground officially means summer is around the corner. Our tomatoes were seeded in the greenhouse nearly two months ago. They started their life in 1 inch by 1 inch planting cells. After the first four true leaves were formed, the tomatoes were transplanted into 4 inch pots. This gives their roots more space, and the process of “up-potting” the tomatoes gives them a second dose of food (in our case, just nice healthy soil!) After a couple more weeks in the small pots, they are ready for their final home, out in the field. In order to check if the plants are ready for transplanting, we remove one plant from the pot to check the roots. Once the roots can be seen on all four sides of the cube of soil, its ready to go.

Before planting day, we did some field prep. We added our homemade compost to each row, followed by limestone to increase calcium levels. We then used a wire to insure each row was straight, and re-connected the irrigation. Just like our veggie garden, our tomatoes and peppers are irrigated with drip lines. Once the irrigation was in place, we were ready to plant. It took three days and the help of 6 people to plant all 15 rows. In the greenhouse, our eggplant and pepper plants are a week or two away from being ready for transplanting. Needless to say, we’ll be staying busy!

We have 16 rows of tomatoes in total, that’s 1800 tomato plants. We have carefully selected 22 varieties of tomatoes, each chosen carefully for a specific use. We are growing three rows of saucing tomatoes, “Amish Paste” and “San Marzano” to use in our homemade ketchup and pizza sauce. Next we chose juicy, “Red Brandywine” for Anna’s famous tomato soup, and a mix of heirloom tomatoes for our CSA members. We chose the heirlooms based on our favorites for taste, appearance and durability. For example, we always plant Farmer Al’s favorite, “Big Rainbow” tomatoes. My personal favorite is “Japanese Black Trifele”, the pear-shaped purplish-green tomatoes with a bold flavor. Becky loves the “Cherokee Purple”, and “Green Zebras” are always a crowd pleaser with their beautiful striped skin. We also choose our tomatoes varieties based on their resistance to specific issues. For example, the high heat in Brentwood means that our tomatoes are prone to cracking after irrigation. Over the years we have discovered which varieties are resistance to cracking. We also look for varieties with resistance to bottom end rot and verticilium wilt, both issues that are difficult to combat organically.

Now we water, weed, and prune; waiting until our hard work and summer heat brings us tasty tomatoes- which we are excited to offer to you, our valued CSA members.

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