Commentary by Bob Wasson
Growing tomatoes is a much a part of our Indiana culture as driving racecars and playing basketball.
In fact, the next time you squeeze ketchup on your French fries or devour a bowl of pasta with marinara, chances are good that you’re eating tomatoes that were grown right here in Indiana. Because of an ideal climate and near-perfect soil conditions, our state ranks second in the nation in commercial tomato production, processing about 249,000 pounds annually.
Thousands of Hoosiers grow tomatoes in their backyard gardens, too. And while most gardeners have their own tried and true methods, these basic tips will help you harvest a bountiful crop all summer long:
Fruit that comes into contact with the ground is likely to rot or suffer pest damage. The remedy is to cage or stake your tomato plants.
Stakes should be six to eight feet tall and driven deeply into the ground. As the plants grow and bear fruit, they’ll get very heavy, so be sure to tie the biggest branches securely to the stakes.
Most experts agree that your tomato plants need about one inch of water per week. During exceptionally dry, sunny spells, they may need more. Mulching can help.
For more tomatoes per plant, pinch and prune away the suckers that develop in the joint between two branches. They won’t bear any fruit and they take energy away from the rest of the plant.
Depending on your style of gardening, you also may want to consult with the experts at your neighborhood nursery or garden center about fertilizer and spraying options.
What was once a humble vegetable first developed by the Mayans of Central America is now praised as a nutritional powerhouse that’s rich in vitamins and brimming with antioxidants. And tomatoes taste great, too – especially when they’re home grown in a Hoosier garden!
Bob Wasson is president of operations at Wasson Nursery located in Muncie just 30 minutes north of Hamilton Town Center on I-69.