By Tiffany Selvey, Master Gardener and mama of 1
If you want to grow food but don’t know where to start, allow me to suggest something with which you might be familiar: Tomatoes.
I love tomatoes. For as long as I can remember, they have been a significant portion of my summer diet. Back in the day when white bread wasn’t considered evil, my favorite lunch would be several slices of tomato from my grandpa’s garden, a slice of American cheese, and plenty of mayo sandwiched between two slices of soft white bread.
Oh, to have the metabolism of a child again! Well, I may be avoiding white bread these days, but tomatoes are still a significant part of my summer diet, usually with a dash of salt accompanied by farm-fresh eggs and sliced avocado. I may be thirty-something, but I can still eat well!
Aside from my own personal love affair with tomatoes, there are plenty of reasons to grow this lovely veggie. For the time and effort it takes to grow one tomato plant, you really get a lot of food in return. They are low-maintenance plants with few major pest and disease issues.
Perhaps my favorite part of growing tomatoes is that they grow quickly in our Arkansas summers. They love the heat and humidity, so it’s fun to watch the progress daily with the kiddos while learning more about how our food grows.
There are literally thousands of tomato varieties, so how could you possibly know what to get? Thankfully, you won’t find thousands of different varieties at our local garden centers, but you will find an assortment of plants with different features. You’ll need to have an idea of what you want before you go shopping.
Here are a few things to consider:
- How much space do you have to plant? If you are growing in a container, there are specific varieties tomatoes that are bred to be more compact. All tomato plants are either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate plants only grow to a certain height and produce a certain number of fruits, regardless of the weather, while indeterminate plants continue to produce food as long as the weather is warm. If you’re limited in space, a determinate variety might be best for you, as they require smaller supports, but if you have plenty of garden space, I would recommend an indeterminate variety so you have fresh food all summer and fall. Read all plant labels for spacing instructions.
- What does your family eat? When you’re at the grocery store or farmers market, do you tend to purchase slicing or cherry tomatoes? Naturally, I would encourage you to grow both, but your priority should be to grow what your family likes best. My family likes to eat cherry tomatoes straight from the vine in the garden.
We won’t start planting tomatoes until early May, when the soil warms, so you have some time to think things over and decide what your family would like to eat. In my next post, I’ll go through the simple details of planting. Let’s get the family in the garden!
Tiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally atwww.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook, instagram and on twitter.