First, you have to choose the types of tomatoes which are best for the area. Knight recommends Early Girl if you want a hybrid, but any of the Heirloom varieties also fair well. Stay away from long time plants and go with those that take 70-75 days maximum to mature.
Knight says to wait until the soil has warmed up- if not, they won’t grow. When you plant your tomatoes, they must be planted very deep, deeper than they are in the containers, and five gallon pots. This allows for the plants to grow sturdy and healthy.
In order to prevent late blight, tomatoes must be adequately pruned. Thin and de-leaf the plants so they can dry out, allowing maximum air circulation and also permitting you to easily find blossoms and tomatoes.
Knight recounted that she once gave tomato plants to gardeners at the GH fair and they claimed that the plants didn’t produce tomatoes. “I came in just before fair time and I pruned the plants. I not only found blossoms, which they said weren’t there, I found green tomatoes and ripe ones. They couldn’t believe it. The plants were so thick they couldn’t find the tomatoes,” Knight explained.
A common mistake among gardeners is cutting the suckers (the branch that comes off the leaf joint) off the plant because they don’t produce tomatoes. This is devastating to the plant, however, as the suckers product about 85% of its food. Knight explained, “Keep the suckers on by take some of the leaves off to open the plant up.”
Knight also demonstrated the most efficient way to pollinate the tomato plant. “All you have to do is tap the blossom or shake the plant,” Knight said. “Most people want to use that spray, but this is a lot cheaper and a lot more effective. It’ll work regardless of the weather. . . One year I had a tomato plant with one blossom in my bedroom in December. I hand pollinated it and then picked a tomato in February. So I know darn well that it works.”
Knight can be reached at Cindy’s Plant Stand, 1199 Monte-Elma Road Elma, WA 98541, and (360) 482-3258.