Demystifying the Tomato Tag
When you do go to buy your tomatoes, you encounter those tomato plant tags. What in the world do all those things on the tag mean anyways? Let’s look at a plant tag together. Generally, at the top of the tag it will have the variety name. For example, the tag I have in front of me says “Mountain Gold.” After the name there are letters: V, F, F. Those letters tell you that this variety is resistant to certain diseases or problems that effect tomatoes. Any variety that has letters like this is a hybrid variety which mean it has been created by mixing different varieties, etc. Every tag is a bit different, but generally if the tag lists the letters they stand for the following: V= verticllium wilt F= fusarium wilt N= nematodes T= tobacco mosaic virus A = alternaria
Are these important to look at? It depends. If you know that you have trouble with one of these problems, then growing a variety of tomatoes that is resistant to these things can help. In general, some of these varieties are a good choice for new gardeners as they tend to be heartier plants in general than heirloom varieties. Heirloom varieties are those that are not hybrids. They have not been bred or crossed with other varieties. This means these are older varieties and are often grown for their distinctive characteristics or taste. You can also save the seeds of an heirloom tomato and grow them again the next year.
Tomato tags also list a number of days. This is the time it takes for you to get a tomato after you plant the seedling outside in the ground. The earliest tomatoes are about 62 days; the latest varieties are around 85 days. If you are planting several tomato plants, you can choose different lengths so that your tomatoes will be ready at different times.
The last terms that you may see on a tomato tag are determinate variety or indeterminate variety. What is the difference? Determinate varieties will grow to a certain height and produce tomatoes. They don’t keep growing. Indeterminate varieties are those that keep producing new leaf growth. They grow up and up and the tomatoes get progressively higher on the vine. These are the varieties that sometimes you see grown on a string. Most of the varieties that you will grow in your garden will be determinate varieties.
Tomatoes and Watering
The area where we see most people have trouble with their tomato plants is in the area of watering. This is especially a problem when growing tomatoes in a container or in an upside down hanging basket. Tomatoes need a very even amount of water throughout the growing season. They like to receive the same amount of water at regular intervals. They do not like to be over watered.
Tomatoes that have had irregular or excessive watering will develop what’s called bottom end rot. This is a brown spot on the bottom of the fruit that develops when the tomato is still green. This is not a disease. You don’t need to spray your plants. Rather, it is due to irregular watering. You can correct that by making sure to water your plants with regular intervals and the same amount each time. If you are growing your plant in a container or upside down basket, check the soil to see if it is wet in the morning. If the soil feels dry, you should water the plant. Sometimes in late afternoon a tomato plant will appear wilted from the heat. This is does not necessarily mean it needs more water. It is just reacting to the heat and will be fine when it cools down in the evening. The tendency is to water the plants every time they look droopy which can lead to over watering. You may also want to be aware of containers during heavy rains. If they receive a lot more water than their average amount this can cause the fruit to develop bottom end rot. Growing tomato plants in the ground or raised beds provides the best opportunity for consistency in watering.