Red Hot Tomatoes

Ready to Eat Tomatoes in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Ready to Eat Tomatoes (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Imagine a small farm stand with lines out the door.  Dozens of people are patiently standing in line, all waiting for their allotment of a most prized commodity.  What in the world would make folks go through this routine day after day?  What was so precious that one simply could not go without it?  “It” was voluptuous, delectable red orbs that when held up to your nostrils held the rich scent of earthly delight, a promise of mouthwatering pleasures to come.  A hot house tomato indeed!  Although they are now common place in markets across the country, nothing beats a warm, freshly picked hot house tomato (my favorite is on a sandwich with mayonnaise-yum).   

Hot house tomatoes have come a long way since the early 90’s, when I worked at Maple Bank Farm (  At that time, they were one of the few farms in Connecticut growing tomatoes in a greenhouse.  Starting their tomatoes from seed in late February, Cathy and Howie Bronson would have 320 plants installed in the greenhouse mid to late April, and would start picking in June.  Since outdoor field grown tomatoes aren’t usually ripe until late July, you can see why folks came for miles to get a few of those premature delicacies.  The demand was so great that Maple Bank had to limit customers to three pounds each in an attempt to satisfy everyone’s needs.

Rows of Green house Tomatoes in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Rows of green house tomatoes at Maple Bank (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Although most of us cannot grow tomatoes in our home, there are a few things we can do to get a jump on the season.  By picking the right variety to suit your taste buds and purchasing a few plants that have been grown in a greenhouse to get a head start, you can easily have a bounty of luscious tomatoes from late June through frost.  For those that don’t have property to plant, lack the time to prepare a plot, or don’t want to share their harvest with the local fauna, many tomatoes thrive in a container safely kept on your porch or patio.  In fact, that is how I choose to grow them because it’s much easier to tend to them (watering and suckering) and I can remove the fruit before the neighboring critters can get to them.  Many other herbs and vegetables (especially lettuce and potatoes) also perform quite well in containers, so you can have a smorgasbord of tasty delights a few feet from your kitchen door.  If your container is large enough, you can plant herbs and lettuce right in with your tomato plant-an entire salad in one convenient spot.

Tomato sucker in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Sucker on tomato vine (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Whether field or container grown, there are a few things you can do to help your plants perform better.  Staking early will support your tomato, prevent it from laying on the ground as the tomatoes get heavy, promote good air circulation, and allow access for removing suckers.  What are suckers?  They are a branch that grows from the main stem (usually right above a leaf) and if left untended, can sap a lot of energy from the main plant.  Relatively easy to remove, you can snap them off by hand or use pruners.  If you do this by hand on multiple plants, I recommend wearing gloves as the residue from the vine will stain your fingers black (I learned this the hard way suckering hundreds of plants at Maple Bank).

If grown in a container, you will need to water and fertilize (use organic) your plants to maintain health and fruiting.  Tomatoes need to be in the full sun, so plan to water every day and fertilize once a week.  That would be the same routine for any other veggies or herbs you grow in a container as well.  With field grown tomatoes, you may not need to water unless there is a long dry spell.  Tomatoes actually like hot, dry weather and over-saturated plants can result in fruit that splits open.  You will want to use some organic compost when you plant them initially, and perhaps apply one more time during the growing season.

Vine Ripened Tomatoes in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Vine Ripened Tomatoes at Maple Bank (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Thanks to the increasing awareness of benefits to growing your own (or buying locally) vegetables and fruits, there is a lot of information and a wide variety of choices out there for anyone looking to try growing for themselves.  It’s probably too late to start thinking about growing tomato plants now, but you sure can start looking at the ones you want to experiment with next year.  And in the meantime, visit your local farm or farmer’s market to indulge in the homegrown goodness they have available for you now~


  1. Morning! I think I will have a tomato, lettuce, and cheese sandwich for lunch!

  2. My mouth is watering. Tomato sandwich on toasted rye bread, mayo & lots of salt & pepper! Very entertaining post!

    • Thank you Dina. When nothing is ripe in the outdoor garden, a greenhouse tomato is just the morsel to raise your spirits! Enjoy~

  3. Thanks Kathy. This is a great entry. I just picked my first few tomatoes today – finally! I’m experimenting to see if they’ll grow better in containers or the garden. So far, the garden is winning but the container ones started out smaller so it’s not a fair competition yet.

    • The garden usually wins out because of all the natural nutrients a plant can receive from the soil. However, if you plant in sizable containers using a good compost mix, and water regularly, you may find it a close tie with similarly sized plants from the start. It’s always fun experimenting anyway. Enjoy your harvest and thanks so much for writing, Debbie!

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