published Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Five tips for cultivating delicious tomatoes

It’s almost tomato time.

Soon, tables will be overflowing with homegrown Sun Golds and voluptuous Valencias. Farmers markets will set up booths and tables boasting Cherokee purples and pink beauties.

Self-labeled plant doctor Craig Walker of the Barn Nursery said the key to getting those tomatoes through to the home stretch is watering.

“Tomatoes are thirsty, and if you let them dry out the fruit can sometimes crack,” he said.

Heirloom varieties are popular in the area, he said, particularly Cherokee purple, beefmaster and Big Boy.

Planting-to-harvest time usually takes 60 to 80 days. Knowing when to pick is simple, Walker said. “It’s red. Unless you’re looking for a green tomato.”

Five tips

1 As harvest time approaches, check your tomatoes daily to see if they are ready to pick.

2 Feed tomatoes with plant food containing calcium to help avoid blossom-end rot.

3 Water is key, especially in extreme heat. Water plants at the base every day.

4 Watch for bugs, and if needed, treat plants with a spray designed specifically for vegetables.

5 The deadline for planting tomatoes in this area is July 1.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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