Growing large tomatoes can be rewarding and money saving. The taste and quality is the final deal breaker. Some sources estimate 9/10 gardeners in the USA(Canada?) grow tomatoes.
One very common large tomatoes is the Beefsteak variety. In fact, when I worked at a garden center at 19 years of age, it was the best selling vegetable plant, as far as I remember, in addition to classic called ‘Early Girl’.
Fast forward 30 years, I still put out a few Beefsteak tomatoes, but, not many as I will get to that in a moment.
Whether we decide to grow in soil, containers or hydroponics, we need to find the ideal plant(s) for our situation.
In our location, one can grow many varieties, but blight and humidity can pose problems. One strain that seems to handle these fairly well in a hydroponic garden is the ‘Early Girl’ variety.
This variety grows a thicker skinned tomato that tastes great in Greek salads. More importantly, it looks almost perfect in color and no imperfections like scabs and whatnot. It is also very strong and handles fall storms and wind with minimal training.
The Beefsteak in our system grows big, but, it cracks in rain and can be a little scabby. The leaves also look more diseased than other varieties too.
With that said, let’s get started growing those tomatoes now that we have narrowed down our selections.
Tomato Seeds Germination
The germination date is somewhat of high importance because the earlier we start, the sooner they fruit.
However, there are trade-offs here. If we start early like March 1, we will need to transplant into larger pots at 4 weeks old. Now, we have space and extra work issues. But, doing this can be the different of tomatoes ready in July.
If we waited and went from small cell or Juffy pot into our final garden location, that could mean staring them in early April and fruit will be a month later in August. The decision is ours, but having at least some early ones makes sense.
Starting tomato seeds is quite easy. We can place them in Jiffy pots, or better yet, place them in moist 72-cell plant inserts using a medium like peat/vermiculite. 5-10% vermiculite is sufficient. We can cover the seeds with a tiny layer(1/8-inch) of vermiculite, or just cover with same mix.
After that, we put on a 4-inch dome and leave them in darkness until the first ones sprout. This can be a few days. Then, we turn on the lights.
For the next 2-3 weeks, plain water is all they need while they are only 3-inches below the daylight led lights. Make sure to monitor color because they will go slightly yellow if we are late on the food. 1/3 strength fertilizer is fine at this point.
Once our plants are 4 weeks old or so, we can move them into 3.5-inch pots and continue to care for them under lights or move them into a coldframe or greenhouse.
Then, we can put them in a final location, which in our case is a hydroponic garden. Then, they are grown on autopilot with a daily feeding program so they grow abundantly and healthy.
Although we have been discussing large tomatoes, care and growing smaller, cherry sized tomatoes is almost identical
The time comes when a plant has all stages of growth, from, new tiny tomatoes to edible ones. No explanation required at this point. We can eat them, freeze them, or dehydrate them.