Heirloom Tomatoes are varieties that have often been passed down through families from generation to generation and which have not been cross-bred with other varieties of Tomato. As the desire for non-GMO and organic seeds has increased in the past decade it has brought attention back to these once forgotten plants. Heirloom Tomatoes were found in vegetable gardens until the 1940’s when the Tomatoes we know today were hybridized to make them more disease resistant and red when they became ripe.
Many gardeners feel that Heirloom Tomatoes taste better than conventional Tomatoes and here are some tips on how to successfully grow these special plants:
Watch for Diseases - Unlike modern hybrids which have disease resistance bred into them, Heirloom Tomatoes have a much lower resistance to many diseases. Planting Heirloom Tomatoes at least 1 foot apart will help in this regard. You will also want to be sure to avoid wetting the leaves and a drip irrigation system is a good way to do this.
Pruning and Support - Heirlooms from large, vigorous plants which require a strong support system. Keeping them upright and off the ground will increase yields as well as aid in disease prevention. Vigilantly removing the suckers, the sprouts that appear at the joint between the stem, will channel the plants' energy into fruit production and improve air circulation.
Use a Mulch - Mulching conserves soil moisture, prevents weeds and helps to warm up the soil which is a requirement for successfully growing any Tomato. Heirloom Tomatoes, in particular, have a thin skin, which is what is said to enhance their flavor, but this means the fruit is subject splitting if they receive too much water. Overwatering can also dilute the flavor so mulching is an important step to take. Mulch also aids in disease prevention by reducing soil splashing on the lower leaves during thunderstorms and heavy rain events.
Choose Your Plants Carefully - Researching what Heirloom Tomatoes grow best in your area is a good way to increase your likelihood of success. You’ll want to focus on how tall they will get as well as how quickly the Tomatoes will mature. Your local County garden extension can be a good source of information. You can find your local extension by clicking on this link.
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