Growing Giant Tomatoes (cont)
By: Deborah Wechsler
Lots of Loving Care
Although our tomato growers extraordinaire each have special techniques for growing large fruits, they also have many techniques in common. All start from seed because it's the best way to get healthy, robust plants of the varieties they want as early as they want. They all transplant t seedlings into larger containers at least twice before moving them to the garden. They're scrupulous about hardening off, setting plants deeply, and protecting new transplants. They all fertilize regularly during the growing season with a variety of liquid fertilizers, foliar feedings, and top dressings of compost or granular fertilizers.
All of these growers mulch, usually with straw or plastic, to conserve moisture and prevent splashing, which can spread disease. They also avoid overhead watering.
Problems with plant diseases or insects are few. Some of this garden vitality may be the product of luck and location--as well as soil-moving--but then, these are the kinds of growers who pick off every yellow leaf and scout diligently for infant hornworms. Their prized plants are also assured plenty of sun and space. In addition, like little garden prodigies, these tomatoes receive a high level of training and support. You won't find any superplants sprawling on the ground.
What can other growers learn from the success of these gardeners' Though they have an extraordinary level of dedication every step of the way, they are not specialists. Similar attentiveness would undoubtedly give any of us big, beautiful tomatoes. As for that grand-champion tomato--even Gordon Graham has yet to beat his own record!
Deborah Wechsler of Pittsboro, North Carolina is a frequent contributor to National Gardening.
Photography by Suzanne DeJohn/National Gardening Association.