Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News article for March 26, 2018
Fresh vegetables are in high demand. Many people are trying to incorporate more fresh vegetables into their diet and there is no better way to source fresh produce than grow it yourself.
Tomatoes are the prize in the vegetable garden. They are the most popular vegetable grown by gardeners. The beauty of tomatoes is that one plant can be very productive and you can easily place a plant or two in a flower bed without going to a lot of extra trouble.
In a traditional garden setting, plant tomato transplants rather than planting seeds. Transplants are planted 18 to 24 inches apart within a row and will require a support system to keep them up off of the ground. The type of system you use is determined by the variety and type of plants. Tomatoes are broken down into growth types. Indeterminate varieties are also called vining type tomatoes. These plants can grow as tall and as long as you can keep them alive. I have seen vining type tomatoes grown in greenhouses that had vines 15 feet long. We typically stake every plant individually with a 5-6 foot tall stake and then tie the plants to the stakes as they grow. You remove suckers from vining tomatoes.
The other type of tomato is called determinate or bush type. These plants will only grow so tall, usually 4 to 4 1/2 feet, and you do not remove suckers as the plant will produce flowers and fruit all over the tomato plant. For determinate plants we usually put down a stake every 2 to 4 plants and will weave tie string around the plants to secure them within the twine. The weave is completed by attaching it on both sides of the row to create a sandwich with the plant in the middle. The twine is then wrapped around each stake as you go down both sides of the row and then tied off to a firmly secured stake at the end of the row where you started.Recommended vining (indeterminate) varieties would include Better Boy, Big Beef, Champion, Pink Girl (pink) and Jet Star (low acid). For small tomatoes that are vining, try Juliet (grape), Sweet Million (cherry), Sweet Chelsea (cherry), Cupid (grape), Mountain Belle (cherry) and Sun Gold (yellow clusters).
If you think that heirloom tomatoes are the way to go, plant early. The older varieties do have great flavor, but not the disease resistance of modern varieties and they are soft. They work best when planted early in the spring to grow and harvest before it gets too hot. They cannot be stacked on top of one another when harvesting or packing. Some heirloom varieties that we have grown and seem to perform well here are Red Brandywine, Pink Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Persimmon (yellow) and German Stripe.
For determinate varieties it is hard to beat the taste of Celebrity, but it lacks some disease resistance and tends to crack around the shoulders. Another flavor favorite is Bella Rosa and it has resistance to tomato spotted wilt. Other recommended varieties include Florida 91, Mountain Spring, Amelia, Crista, Florida 47, Carolina Gold (yellow) and Tasti-Lee.
Bell pepper transplants are planted at a spacing of 15-18 inches within the row. We typically harvest them green, but all varieties will turn a color if left to full maturity. Our high humidity and hot climate makes it hard to get a bell pepper to fully mature and show color. Recommended varieties of hybrid bell peppers include Aristotle, King Arthur, Camelot and Excursion. Open pollinated varieties include Jupiter, Purple Beauty and Capistrano.
Eggplants are spaced from 18-36 inches within the row. Recommended varieties of oval shaped eggplants are Santana, Epic, Black Beauty (open pollinated), Calliope (small striped), Dusky and Classic. Fairy Tale is a slender lavender variety.