Good Gardening: Best Tomatoes
Everybody's garden is different, but most are running a little late this year because of our cool spring. Tomatoes are just starting to ripen as the cooler days - and nights - of fall are just around the corner.
You can improve your harvest, and improve the taste of the fruit you pick by changing how you treat the plants, and how you treat the bounty they produce.
First some discouraging information, and then a work around. Tomatoes start producing starch, and can turn mealy, when the temperature falls below fifty degrees. The average low on September 2nd is 50, and goes to the mid 40's by the end of the month.
To ensure the tastiest tomatoes on your table, pick them pink, and let them fully ripen in the warm house when cool nights are in the forecast. Missouri has warmer nights, better vine ripened tomatoes, and chiggers. Everything is a tradeoff. Go ahead and do your own tomato taste test - picked pink and ripened indoors, or fully ripened on the vine. I know what my taste buds prefer.
If you cut back on water for your tomatoes in mid-September, less new fruit will set, the fruit on the vines will mature sooner, and the tomatoes you get will be more flavorful, and less watery. Less water in the fruit will also make them store better.
Finally, if we get an early rain, cover the tomato plants to keep them dry, and you will greatly reduce cracking of the fruit, and increase its storability. I pick most of my tomatoes just BEFORE the first big October rain, and then let the fruit ripen indoors. If you're too busy to pick the fruit, pull up the whole plants, and hang them in a dry place. The leaves will shrivel, and the tomatoes will ripen. For me, Christmas tomatoes are the norm. Spring equinox tomatoes have occurred meaning the homegrown tomato season can be six to nine months long - even when the crop is late.
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