Homegrown Tomatoes — Not just a Daydream

This winter was a cold one for most of us, making that next round of fresh homegrown tomatoes seem a distant daydream.  Did your supply of home-canned tomatoes from last year get low or even emptied?  Well, it’s not too early to start thinking of your next harvest.  Tomato plants can go in the garden once any danger of frost has passed, so sooner than later those ripe tomatoes could be a reality.

In southern states, tomato plants are now going into the ground. In more northern climates last frost may still be a few weeks away, but tomato plants Spring calendarcan already be started indoors. If you start them indoors from seed, you’ll wait four to seven weeks before they are ready to be planted outside.

A few tips from University of Georgia Extension will help your chances of success in starting your homegrown ‘maters:

  • Establish an indoor location near a south-facing window that receives a lot of sunlight. If you cannot do this, then you might need to use a supplemental grow light with a spectrum that mimics natural light.
  • Use a light soil mix for planting tomato seeds.
  • Select a seed variety that is adapted to your local area.
  • Remember to harden off the plants before transplanting by gradually exposing them to sunlight a little bit more each day for about a week before carefully tucking them into their garden beds.

Are your tomato plants already ready to go into the garden? Follow the planting, mulching, fertilizing, and watering tips from UGA Extension: Georgia Home Grown Tomatoes.

If you plan to preserve your upcoming bounty of homegrown tomatoes, then remember that there are options for both boiling water bath canning and pressure canning tomatoes. Make sure you follow tested recommendations, and have citric acid or a bottle of lemon juice ready! (Directions for canning tomatoes call for adding a small amount of citric acid or commercially bottled lemon juice in order to ensure the acidity and safety of the final product.)