How To Grow Tomatoes
Tomatoes (Love Apples).—Those intended to be grown in the open should be raised from seed sown the first week in March in pots of very rich, light mould. Place them in a cucumber-house or other gentle heat, and when the second leaf appears, pot them off singly, keeping them near the glass and well watered. Towards the end of May remove them to a cold frame to harden off, and plant out as soon as fear of frost is over, in deeply-dug and moderately manured ground, against a south wall fully exposed to the sun. Train to a single stem and remove all lateral growths. When the plants are 3 or 4 ft. high pinch off the tops to prevent further growth and throw strength into the fruit. Watering should cease as soon as the blossom-buds appear, except in periods of very severe drought. When grown under glass Tomatoes need to be trained in much the same way as Grape Vines. Constant attention must be given to removing all useless shoots and exposing the fruit to air and light. An average temperature of 60 degrees should be maintained, with a rather dry and buoyant atmosphere.
Love-apple. Solanum lycopersicum.
The Tomato is a native of South America. It is a half-hardy annual, and is said to have been introduced into England as early as 1596. For a long period, it was very little used; and the peculiar, specific term, lycopersicum, derived from lykos, "wolf," and persicon, "a peach" (referring to the beautiful but deceptive appearance of the fruit), more than intimates the kind of estimation in which it was held.
It first began to be generally used in Italy, subsequently in France, and finally in England. In this country, its cultivation and use may be said to have increased fourfold within the last twenty years; and it is now so universally relished, that it is furnished to the table, in one form or another, through every season of the year. To a majority of tastes, its flavor is not at first particularly agreeable; but, by those accustomed to its use, it is esteemed one of the best, as it is also reputed to be one of the most healthful, of all garden vegetables.
When fully grown, the Tomato-plant is from four to seven feet and upwards in height or length, with a branching, irregular, recumbent stem, and dense foliage. The flowers are yellow, in branching groups, or clusters; the fruit is red, white, or yellow, and exceedingly variable in size and form; the seeds are lens-shaped, yellowish-white, or pale-gray,—twenty-one thousand are contained in an ounce, and they retain their vitality five years.
Propagation.—The Tomato is raised from seeds, which should be sown in a hot-bed in March, or in the open ground as soon as the frost will permit. As the plants, even in the most favorable seasons, seldom perfectly mature their full crop, they should be started as early and forwarded as rapidly as possible, whether by hot-bed or open-air culture. If the seeds are sown in a hot-bed, the drills should be made five inches apart, and half an inch deep. When the plants are two inches high, they should be removed to another part of the bed, and pricked out four or five inches apart, or removed into small pots, allowing a single plant to a pot. They are sometimes twice transplanted, allowing more space or a larger pot at each removal; by which process, the plants are rendered more sturdy and branching than they become by being but once transplanted.
As early in May as the weather is suitable, the plants may be set in the open ground where they are to remain, and should be three feet apart in each direction; or, if against a wall or trellis, three feet from plant to plant. Water freely at the time of transplanting, shelter from the sun for a few days or until they are well established, and cultivate in the usual form during summer.
If sown in the open ground, select a sheltered situation, pulverize the soil finely, and sow a few seeds in drills, as directed for the hot-bed. This may be done in November (just before the closing-up of the ground), or the last of March, or first of April. In May, when the plants are three or four inches high, transplant to where they are to remain, as before directed.
In gardens where tomatoes have been cultivated, young plants often spring up abundantly from the seeds of the decayed fruit of the preceding season. These, if transplanted, will succeed as well, and frequently produce fruit as early, as plants from the hot-bed or nursery-bed.
Sufficient plants for the garden of a small family may be started with little trouble by sowing a few seeds in a garden-pan or large flower-pot, and placing it in a sunny window of the sitting-room or kitchen. If the seed is sown in this manner about the middle or 20th of March, the plants will be of good size for setting by the time the weather will be suitable for their removal.
Forcing the Crop.—"The ripening of the fruit may be hastened by setting the plants against a south wall or close fence. As the plants increase in size, they must be nailed or otherwise attached to the wall or fence; and, if the weather be dry, liberally watered. When the two first trusses of bloom have expanded over each shoot, the shoot should be stopped by pinching off the portion which is beyond the leaf above the second truss, and no more lateral shoots should be suffered to grow; but the leaves must be carefully preserved, especially those near the trusses of bloom. The number of shoots on each plant will vary according to the strength and vigor of the particular plant; but three or four will be quite enough, leaving about half a dozen trusses of fruit.
"As the fruit ripens, it must be well exposed to the sun. There will be nothing gained by allowing a great many fruit to ripen. The number above given will be sufficient, and the tomatoes will be much earlier and larger than if they were more numerous."
Culture and Training.—A convenient, simple, and economical support for the plants may be made from three narrow hoops,—one twelve, another fifteen, and the third eighteen or twenty inches in diameter,—and attaching them a foot from each other to three stakes about four feet in length; placing the lower hoop so that it may be about ten inches from the surface of the ground after the stakes are driven. The adjoining figure illustrates this method of training. It secures abundance of light, free access of air, and, in skilful hands, may be made quite ornamental.
Hoop-training of the Tomato.
Or a trellis may be cheaply formed by setting common stakes, four feet in length, four feet apart, on a line with the plants, and nailing laths, or narrow strips of deal, from stake to stake, nine inches apart on the stakes; afterwards attaching the plants by means of bass, or other soft, fibrous material, to the trellis, in the manner of grape-vines or other climbing plants. By either of these methods, the plants not only present a neater appearance, but the ripening of the fruit is facilitated, and the crop much more conveniently gathered when required for use.
The French mode of raising tomatoes is as follows: "As soon as a cluster of flowers is visible, they top the stem down to the cluster, so that the flowers terminate the stem. The effect is, that the sap is immediately impelled into the two buds next below the cluster, which soon push strongly, and produce another cluster of flowers each. When these are visible, the branch to which they belong is also topped down to their level; and this is done five times successively. By this means, the plants become stout, dwarf bushes, not above eighteen inches high. In order to prevent their falling over, sticks or strings are stretched horizontally along the rows, so as to keep the plants erect. In addition to this, all laterals that have no flowers, and, after the fifth topping, all laterals whatsoever, are nipped off. In this way, the ripe sap is directed into the fruit, which acquires a beauty, size, and excellence unattainable by other means."—Gard. Chron.
Varieties.—These are quite numerous. Some are merely nominal, many are variable or quite obscure, and a few appear to be distinct, and, in a degree, permanent. The principal are as follow:—
Fruit somewhat flattened, inclining to globular, depressed about the stem, but smooth and regular in its general outline. The size is quite variable; but, if well grown, the average diameter is about two inches and a half, and the depth two inches. Skin deep, rich crimson; flesh bright-pink, or rose-color,—the rind being thick and hard, and not readily reduced to a pulp when cooked.
The Apple-tomato is early, hardy, productive, keeps well, and, for salad and certain forms of cookery, is much esteemed; but it is more liable to be hollow-hearted than any other of the large varieties.
In form, as well as in the thick, tough character of its rind, it resembles the Bermuda.
This is a red or rose-colored, apple-formed sort, extensively imported from Bermuda into the Middle and Northern States in May and the early summer months.
Like the preceding variety, it varies considerably in size,—some specimens measuring little more than an inch in diameter; while others from the same plant, matured at nearly the same season, frequently exceed a diameter of two inches and a half.
It possesses a thick, rather tough rind, which rarely becomes pulpy in the process of cooking; and, besides, is quite light and hollow-hearted. In size and form, it somewhat resembles the Apple-tomato. When cultivated in New England or the Middle States, it has little merit, either for its productiveness or early maturity.
Fruit quite large, red, often blushed or tinged with pinkish-crimson, flattened, sometimes ribbed, often smooth, well filled to the centre; flesh pink, or pale-red, firm, and well flavored; plant hardy, healthy, and a strong grower.
Seeds received from different reliable sources, and recommended as being strictly true, produced plants and fruit in no respects distinguishable from the Perfected.
Red Pear-shaped Tomato.
A small, red, pyriform or pear-shaped sort, measuring from an inch and a quarter to an inch and a half in length, and nearly an inch in its broadest diameter. Flesh pale-red, or pink, very solid and compact, and generally completely filling the centre of the fruit.
Like the Plum-tomato, it is remarkably uniform in size, and also in shape; but it is little used except for preserving,—other larger varieties being considered more economical for stewing, making catchup, and like purposes.
The variety is usually employed for making tomato-figs, which are thus prepared:—
"Pour boiling water over the tomatoes, in order to remove the skin; after which, weigh, and place in a stone jar, with as much sugar as tomatoes, and let them stand two days; then pour off the sirup, and boil and skim it till no scum rises; pour it over the tomatoes, and let them stand two days as before; then boil, and skim again. After the third time, they are fit to dry, if the weather is good; if not, let them stand in the sirup until drying weather. Then place them on large earthen plates, or dishes, and put them in the sun to dry, which will take about a week; after which, pack them down in small wooden boxes, with fine, white sugar between every layer. Tomatoes prepared in this manner will keep for years."—Mrs. Eliza Marsh, in Hov. Mag.
Giant Tomato. Hov. Mag.
An improved variety of the Common Large Red, attaining a much larger size. Fruit comparatively solid, bright-red, sometimes smooth, but generally ribbed, and often exceedingly irregular; some of the larger specimens seemingly composed of two or more united together. The fruit is frequently produced in masses or large clusters, which clasp about the stem, and rest so closely in the axils of the branches as to admit of being detached only by the rending asunder of the fruit itself; flesh pale-pink, and well flavored.
Like most of the other varieties, the amount of product is in a great degree dependent on soil, culture, and season. Under favorable conditions, twenty-five pounds to a single plant is not an unusual yield; single specimens of the fruit sometimes weighing four and even five or six pounds.
The Giant Tomato is not early, and, for the garden, perhaps not superior to many other kinds; but for field-culture, for market, for making catchup in quantities, or for the use of pickle-warehouses, it is recommended as one of the best of all the sorts now cultivated.
Grape or Cluster Tomato.
This variety, or more properly species, differs essentially in the character of its foliage, and manner of fructification, from the Garden Tomato. The leaves are much smoother, thinner in texture, and have little of the musky odor peculiar to the Common Tomato-plant. The fruit is nearly globular, quite small, about half an inch in diameter, of a bright-scarlet color, and produced in leafless, simple, or compound clusters, six or eight inches in length, containing from twenty to sixty berries, or tomatoes; the whole having an appearance not unlike a large cluster, or bunch of currants.
The plants usually grow about three feet in height or length; and, in cultivation, should be treated in all respects like those of other varieties. Flowers yellow, and comparatively small. Early.
Though quite ornamental, it is of little value in domestic economy, on account of its diminutive size.
Large Red Tomato.
Large Red Tomato.
Fruit sometimes smooth, often irregular, flattened, more or less ribbed; size large, but varied much by soil and cultivation,—well-grown specimens are from three to four inches in diameter, two inches and a half in depth, and weigh from eight to twelve ounces; skin smooth, glossy, and, when ripe, of a fine red color; flesh pale-red, or rose-color,—the interior of the fruit being comparatively well filled; flavor good.
Not early, but one of the most productive of all the varieties; the plants, when properly treated, producing from twelve to fifteen pounds each.
From the time of the introduction of the Tomato to its general use in this country, the Large Red was almost the only kind cultivated, or even commonly known. The numerous excellent sorts now almost everywhere disseminated, including the Large Red, Oval, Fejee, Seedless, Giant, and Lester's Perfected, are but improved sub-varieties, obtained from the Common Large Red by cultivation and selection.
Large Red Oval-fruited Tomato.
A sub-variety of the Large Red. Fruit oval, flattened, much less ribbed, more symmetrical, and more uniform in size, than the last named; well-grown specimens measure about four inches in one direction, three inches in the opposite, and two inches in depth; skin fine, deep-red, smooth and shining; flesh paler, the interior of the fruit well filled with pulp, and, when cooked, yielding a large product in proportion to the bulk. Prolific and well flavored, but not early; ripening at the time of the Large Red.
The variety is exceedingly liable to degenerate, constantly tending towards the Large Red; and can only be maintained in its purity by exclusive cultivation, and a continued use of seeds selected from the fairest, smoothest, best ripened tomatoes, having the peculiar oval form by which the variety is distinguished.
Plant, in its general character, not distinguishable from the Large Red. The fruit also is quite similar in form and size; the principal mark of distinction being its color, which is a fine, clear, semi-transparent yellow. Flesh yellow, well filling the centre, and perhaps a little sweeter or milder than the Red; though generally not distinguishable when stewed or otherwise prepared for the table.
The variety is hardy, yields abundantly, and comes to perfection with the Large Red. It is, however, not generally cultivated; the Red descriptions being more commonly used, and consequently better adapted for cultivation for the market.
Fruit large, comparatively smooth, frequently of an oval form, bright-red, often tinted with rose or bright-pink; flesh pink, solid, filling the fruit to the centre.
It is similar to, if not identical with, the Perfected.
Lester's Perfected. Pomo d'Oro Lesteriano.
A recently introduced and comparatively distinct variety. Plant remarkably healthy and vigorous, often attaining a height or length of six or eight feet, and, in strong soil, of more than ten feet; fruit pinkish-red, or rose-red, of large size, comparatively smooth and regular, flattened, remarkably solid and well filled to the centre, and, when cooked, yielding a large return in proportion to its bulk; flesh firm, well flavored, with comparatively few seeds intermixed. In this last respect, not unlike the Seedless.
When started at the same time, it ripens two weeks after the early varieties, and continues to yield in great abundance until the plants are destroyed by frost. It is considered one of the best sorts for cultivation for the market, and by many is preferred to all others for the garden.
On the authority of a recent writer, the variety has already, to some extent, degenerated. Impure seed, or the influence of some peculiar locality, may have furnished grounds for the statement; but if the variety is genuine or unmixed, it will, in almost any soil or exposure, commend itself by its hardiness, solidity, and great productiveness.
A small, red Tomato, nearly spherical, and about half an inch in diameter. The fruit is produced in great profusion, in large bunches, or clusters; but is comparatively of little value, on account of its small size. It is sometimes used as a preserve, and by some is esteemed for pickling.
Fruit bright-red or scarlet, oval, solid, an inch and a quarter or an inch and a half in depth, and about an inch in diameter; flesh pink, or rose-red, mild and well flavored; seeds comparatively few.
The variety is remarkable for its symmetry and for its uniform size. When ripe, the fruit is not easily distinguished from some varieties of scarlet plums. It is hardy, early, and yields abundantly: but the fruit is employed principally for pickling and preserving; its small size rendering it of little value for stewing or for catchup.
Mixed with the Yellow, they make a fine garnish, and are excellent for salad.
A small, round, red variety, measuring about an inch in diameter. It is one of the earliest of all the cultivated sorts, but of little value except for pickling or preserving.
Of the size and form of the foregoing, differing only in color.
Very similar to, if not identical with, the Perfected. Fruit almost rose-red, solid, and with comparatively few seeds.
Tree-Tomato. Vil. Hov. Mag.
New Upright. Tomate de Laye.
A new variety, raised from seed by Grenier, gardener to M. de Fleurieux, at a place in France called Chateau de Laye (whence the name), and introduced by M. Vilmorin of Paris.
It is distinct from all others; rising quite erect to the height of two feet or upwards, with a stem of remarkable size and strength. The branches are not numerous, and comparatively short, usually eight or ten inches in length,—thus requiring no heading-in; leaves not abundant, rather curled, much wrinkled, very firm, closely placed on the sturdy branches, and of a remarkably deep, shining-green color; fruit bright-red, of large size, comparatively smooth, and well filled to the centre,—in many respects, resembling the Perfected, though more regular in form.
From the peculiar, tree-like character of the plants, the variety is remarkably well adapted for cultivation in pots; but its late maturity greatly impairs its value as a variety for forcing. It is a slow grower, tardy in forming and perfecting its fruit, and, for ordinary garden culture, cannot be recommended as being preferable to the Perfected and other earlier and much more prolific varieties. It has been described as strictly self-supporting: but, though the fruit is produced in a remarkably close and almost clasping manner about the sturdy stem and branches, its weight often brings the plants to the ground; and consequently, in exposed situations, it will be necessary to provide stakes, or some similar means of support; though the plants never exhibit the rambling, recumbent character of the Common Tomato.
Plant similar in habit to the Large Red; fruit large, generally ribbed, often irregular, but sometimes comparatively smooth. Its distinguishing characteristic is its color, which, if the fruit be screened by foliage or if grown in the shade, is almost clear white; if much exposed to the sun, it assumes a yellowish tinge, much paler, however, than the Large Yellow. Flesh yellowish, more watery than that of the Large Red, and of a somewhat peculiar flavor, much esteemed by some, and unpalatable to others.
The variety is hardy, remarkably productive, as early as the Large Red, and equally large and solid: but its color, before and after being cooked, is unattractive; and it is rarely seen in the markets, and seldom cultivated for family use.
White's Extra Early.
Early Red. Extra Early.
A medium-sized Red variety, generally round, but frequently of an oval form, flattened, sometimes ribbed, but comparatively smooth, and, when fully matured, of a deeper color than the later Red sorts. Average specimens measure about two inches and a half in diameter, and an inch and a half in depth. The plants are moderately vigorous, and readily distinguished by their peculiar curled and apparently withering foliage.
Flesh pale-red, quite firm, mild, not very seedy, and well filling the fruit, which is considerably heavier than the Apple-shaped. When cooked, it yields a much greater product, in proportion to its size, than the last-named and similar hollow-hearted varieties. Productive, and of good quality.
Planted at the same time with the Common Red varieties, it will ripen about two weeks earlier. An excellent sort for the garden, and recommended for general cultivation.
In order to retain this or any other early variety in its purity, seed for planting should be saved from the smoothest, best formed, and earliest ripened fruit. Few of the numerous kinds now cultivated possess much permanency of character; and rapidly degenerate, if raised from seed taken from the scattered, irregular, and comparatively immature tomatoes remaining upon the plants at the close of the season.
A yellow variety of the Red Cherry-tomato,—differing only in color.
Quite showy, but of little value for culinary purposes.
Yellow Pear-Shaped Tomato.
A sub-variety of the Red Pear-shaped, with a clear, semi-transparent, yellow skin and yellow flesh. Like the preceding, it is little used except for preserving and pickling.
A variety of the Red Plum, of the same size and form, and equally symmetrical; distinguished only by the color of its skin, which is a fine, clear, transparent yellow. It is used principally for preserving; its small size rendering it comparatively valueless for use in any other form.
When the two varieties are intermixed, the colors present a fine contrast; and a basket of the fruit is quite a beautiful object.