This spring, we’re starting a Tomato Club!
To join, come to one of our planting events to sow seeds in soil, then take your plant home and care for it as it grows into a seedling. Repot it in the ground or its final container and watch as it produces fruit throughout the summer.
Members will receive a journal for tracking the plant’s progress. Scroll down for programs and resources to help you take your tomato from seed to sandwich.
Stay tuned for more info, photos, and resources!
Tap the link below for a brief introduction to the tomato growing journey, including sowing seeds, germination, harvesting, cleanup, and common problems.
When starting from seed, the first decision to be made is which seed variety to plant. With tomatoes some of the factors to consider are the flavor and texture of the tomato, time to maturity, and if it is a determinate or indeterminate variety. Tomato Club will be growing the Early Girl variety, which is an indeterminate and take about 59 days to mature after planting.
The germination stage is when the seed sprouts to form a seedling. With the Early Girl variety this takes about 7 to 10 days. For germination to be successful, environmental factors such as temperature, moisture, and soil are extremely important. Some growers use tools to control moisture and temperature.
If all the seeds that were planted in the pot gown into seedling, you will need to thin them. Because of the limited space for the roots, it is better to thin out the smaller, weaker seedlings, leaving only the strongest plant in each pot. The best way to remove a seedling is to use scissors to snip the stem just above the soil line.
As seedlings begin to grow, they will need more room for healthy roots. Transplanting seedlings into a slightly larger pot will help to promote new root growth. A good indicator for when to repot is when the height of the seedlings is three times as tall as the diameter of its pot.
To help tomato plants to stay strong and resilient outdoors, you will want to gradually introduce them to outdoor environment using a method called hardening off. This should begin 1-2 weeks before moving plants outdoors. This method helps to create strong tomato plants that will be able to withstand full sun, strong wind, and any other challenges they will meet in the garden.
Care in the Garden
Tomato plants love warm weather and need to be planted where they can receive full sun. Using a cage or stake will help the plant grow upwards and give the branches support from the heavy fruits. It is suggested to water in the early morning or after the sun has set so that there is less loss of evaporation.
The MGPL Garden Club is growing the Early Girl tomato, which is a vining tomato plant. Vining tomatoes produce suckers, which are the tiny stems and leaves between the main stem and branches. These suckers can be removed so the main branches will be supplied as much energy as possible to produce fruit.
Care in Containers
If you are unable to plant into the ground, you can grow tomatoes in a pot that’s at least 20 inches wide with a drainage hole. Plant one tomato plant per pot and use a cage or stake to help the plant grow upwards and give the branches support from the heavy fruits. Check the soil daily and make sure to keep it moist as tomatoes in containers dry out quicker than tomatoes in the garden.
Tomatoes are ready for harvest when they have a full red color. If you aren’t using your tomatoes right after picking, you can pull them off the vine when they are not fully red and store them indoors. They will continue to ripen and soften. The Early Girl tomato is considered a slicing tomato, perfect for sandwiches. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Tomato plants will not regrow the following year as they cannot withstand frost. Tomato plants will need to be disposed of at the end of the season. By cleaning the area and disposing of any dropped fruit, leaves, and pulling the plant out at the roots, you are protecting your garden for next year from any pests or diseases that may have been present.
Gardening can come with its challenges such as pests and diseases. In order to make sure your tomato plants are healthy and strong you can monitor them by checking under leaves, checking the fruit, and soil. If the tomatoes look spotty or leaves look moldy, you can try different methods to combat these problems. If you have any plant questions, you can always contact the Chicago Botanic Garden's Plant Information Services.
Starting Plants From Seed for the Home Gardener University of Georgia Extension
Staking and Pruning Tomatoes in the Home Garden University of Georgia Extension
Vegetable Resources: Tomato Problem Solver Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Watch Your Garden Grow: Tomato University of Illinois Extension
Check out our Flickr photo album to see Tomato Club photos.
- Planted our tomato seeds (144 seeds total)
- Moved our growing station to the magazine area
- Turned on our heating mat to help with germination
- Seeds started to sprout
- 85 seeds have sprouted
- Turned off our heating mat and turned on our growing lamp
- 110 seeds have sprouted
- 139 seeds have sprouted
- 141 seeds have sprouted
- true leaves have started to grow on some seedlings
- Culled our seedings
- We now have 71 seedlings
- Repotted seedlings to 3" newspaper pots
- Transplanted two seedlings to containers
All About Tomatoes
You Bet Your Garden Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes
From backyards to terraces, this deliciously funny little book is also a serious guide on how to start and nurture an heirloom tomato patch. Radio host and gardener Mike McGrath has a growing legion of fans who love his trademark wit. In You Bet Your Garden Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes, McGrath doesn't disappoint, delivering both sound advice and plenty of laughs to help gardeners beat the heat and have a great tomato harvest.
In this book McGrath explains why readers should grow their own tomatoes in the first place: You just can't beat the taste. Tomatoes are the most popular home garden vegetable crop, and heirloom tomatoes are older, open-pollinated varieties that have stood the test of time. More and more gardeners are finding heirloom vegetables to be superior in flavor, color and disease resistance to the more common hybrid commercial varieties.
Based on McGrath's personal adventures in tomato-growing, You Bet Your Garden Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes guides would-be gardeners through choosing seeds, germinating, planting, staking, caging, nurturing, watering and harvesting homegrown tomatoes. Readers also get tips on how to control pests and deal with disease. Along the way, he weaves in fascinating tomato lore and tips. This is a book for everyone who loves to laugh, loves to eat, and loves to grow beautiful tomatoes.
Tomatoes are by far the most popular edible vegetable or fruit grown in gardens- US plant nurseries and seed websites stock many more varieties of tomatoes than any other vegetable or fruit. The popularity of heirloom varieties has further fueled interest. Aimed at both food-lovers and gardeners, The Tomato Book showcases the different varieties and shows how to grow them-in pots, hanging baskets, grow bags, under glass, and outdoors-and harvest tomatoes, as well as cooking and preserving them.
In Praise of Tomatoes
Straight from the vine to the cookpot and to terrific trivia: everyone will enjoy this juicy tribute to the tangy, tasty tomato. Begin with a horticultural look at resurgent vintage varieties: a comprehensive chart gives specific growing and eating details on more than 50 delicious types, both heirloom and hybrid. Find out how to create and cultivate the “essential tomato garden,” even on a windowsill. Then, head straight to the kitchen with information on how to store, peel, freeze, dry, can, and cook up the harvest. Recipes include such luscious dishes as tomato soup, jam, bread, and green tomato pie. Round out the enlightening feast with fun facts on the tomato’s history and tomato festivals.
Every spring, thousands of self-described "'maniacs" gather for a series of multi-day garden events for the largest tomato seedling sale in the nation: Tomatomania! CEOs and soccer moms, grandmothers and hipsters, hardcore gardeners and eager first-timers—folks from every walk of life unite to celebrate this energetic rite of spring and their shared love of tomatoes.
In this practical and fun guide, Tomatomania! owner Scott Daigre provides a peek into his Ojai, California, tomato patch and details a "reality gardening" approach to growing the world's favorite summer treat. Tomatomania! walks readers through every step of the tomato gardening process, from the earliest planning stages to those final satisfying kitchen table moments of the season.
Including 20 simple yet unique recipes and numerous kitchen tips to get the most out of your tomato harvest, this comprehensive guide to growing and cooking with tomatoes will turn you, too, into a proud 'maniac!
A comprehensive illustrated guide to growing more than 40 different varieties of tomatoes. Includes: Step-by-step instruction for cultivation in greenhouses, containers or in the garden; Practical advice on preparing soil for planting, cultivation and care; How to harvest, store and preserve tomatoes; Helpful hints on how to avoid pests and diseases and what to do when problems occur.
As everyone knows there is currently a shortage of tomatoes, and the prices in stores are skyrocketing. There is no better time than now for people to learn how to grow their own. Hendrickson provides tips on how to grow tomatoes year round. American Tomato is chalk full of information on storing and growing tomatoes, the different varieties of tomatoes, and delicious tomato recipes. This is the complete tomato guide for any vegetable gardener or tomato lover alike.
Tomato : a fresh-from-the-vine cookbook
Juicy and delicious, there’s nothing like the summery taste of fresh tomatoes. Explore new ways to enjoy your favorite fruit with this mouthwatering collection of 150 recipes for tomato-based appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and more. With a delicious variety of contributions from leading chefs and foodies that include Chilled Sun-Golden Tomato Soup, Zucchini and Tomatoes with Cream, and even Tomato Sorbet, you’ll be inspired to go back to the farmers’ market for more supplies as you try each and every one of these delectable dishes.
2012 IACP Award Winner in the Food Matters category
Supermarket produce sections bulging with a year-round supply of perfectly round, bright red-orange tomatoes have become all but a national birthright. But in Tomatoland, which is based on his James Beard Award-winning article, "The Price of Tomatoes," investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and environmental cost of the $5 billion fresh tomato industry. Fields are sprayed with more than one hundred different herbicides and pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire a marketable hue. Modern plant breeding has tripled yields, but has also produced fruits with dramatically reduced amounts of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and tomatoes that have fourteen times more sodium than the tomatoes our parents enjoyed. The relentless drive for low costs has fostered a thriving modern-day slave trade in the United States. How have we come to this point?
Estabrook traces the supermarket tomato from its birthplace in the deserts of Peru to the impoverished town of Immokalee, Florida, a.k.a. the tomato capital of the United States. He visits the laboratories of seedsmen trying to develop varieties that can withstand the rigors of agribusiness and still taste like a garden tomato, and then moves on to commercial growers who operate on tens of thousands of acres, and eventually to a hillside field in Pennsylvania, where he meets an obsessed farmer who produces delectable tomatoes for the nation's top restaurants.
Throughout Tomatoland, Estabrook presents a who's who cast of characters in the tomato industry: the avuncular octogenarian whose conglomerate grows one out of every eight tomatoes eaten in the United States; the ex-Marine who heads the group that dictates the size, color, and shape of every tomato shipped out of Florida; the U.S. attorney who has doggedly prosecuted human traffickers for the past decade; and the Guatemalan peasant who came north to earn money for his parents' medical bills and found himself enslaved for two years.
Tomatoland reads like a suspenseful whodunit as well as an expose of today's agribusiness systems and the price we pay as a society when we take taste and thought out of our food purchases.
You Bet Your Garden Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes, Second Edition
Whether you have a backyard or only a terrace, you bet you can grow beautiful heirloom tomatoes! From the host of PBS's You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath will teach you everything you need to know about choosing tomato varieties, germination, planting, staking, caging, food, water, maintenance, pest control and diseases, and harvesting. You Bet Your Garden: Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes is filled with expert insight, fascinating tomato lore, and Mike's signature witty and conversational tone, making this essential guide to tomato gardening even more fun to read. Understand all the benefits of growing your own tomatoes and learn tips and techniques to doing so from the leading authority in the field!
Savor your best tomato harvest ever! Craig LeHoullier provides everything a tomato enthusiast needs to know about growing more than 200 varieties of tomatoes, from planting to cultivating and collecting seeds at the end of the season. He also offers a comprehensive guide to various pests and tomato diseases, explaining how best to avoid them. With beautiful photographs and intriguing tomato profiles throughout, Epic Tomatoes celebrates one of the most versatile and delicious crops in your garden.