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You Say To-ma-to, I Say To-mah-to

You Say To-ma-to, I Say To-mah-to
Local Garden Experts Offer Advice for Growing Thriving Tomato Plants

Story by Claire Sandow


When it comes to backyard gardening, tomato growing is a common undertaking. Tomatoes are a plant that require a lot of attention to thrive, but the rewards are worth it.

One common pitfall faced by novice gardeners is trying to start their tomato plants from seed.

“Most people and even growers don’t grow from seed. You can grow tomatoes here from seeds if you start in February, but starting from small plants is sufficient as well,” says Russell Sowers, owner of Ebenezer Rose & Garden Nursery in Springfield.

Starting from a small plant allows you to get started later in the growing season while still giving you a summer harvest to enjoy. Just keep in mind that the plant can eventually grow to be upwards of 3 feet tall, so don’t forget to pick up a tomato cage to support your plants!

The climate of Effingham County allows gardeners to grow almost any variety of tomato from juicy cherry tomatoes to hearty beefsteaks.

“The most popular ones are the hybrids that are bred for taste and meat,” says Myra French of Ijon Webb’s Farm Supply in Springfield. “You can grow just about any variety of tomato out here but there are plant viruses and bugs that attack them.”

Disease resistant seeds are available, but no plant is immune to every ailment. Treating your tomato plants with a one-time systemic treatment can help with disease prevention and there are also insecticides that can ward off common pests like hornworms.

Another important factor to your success is the location of your tomato plant. You can grow them in a greenhouse, but they just don’t taste as good. Tomatoes thrive when they get at least 6 hours of sun per day. But be careful because the sun can be a double-edged sword for your plants. When it gets too hot outside, tomatoes can experience sunscald, some yellowish-white patches that affect the flavor of the fruit.

Watering your tomatoes is a must, but it’s a delicate balance between too much and not enough. A combination of hot and rainy weather can cause the tomatoes to take in too much water and cause cracks in the skin of the fruit. Too little water means the plant does not get enough calcium, making the tomatoes susceptible to blossom end rot.

This information may sound intimidating, but the staff at your local nurseries are happy to help you get started and set you up for a rewarding harvest.