Thoughts on tomatoes

Tomato blooms

First buds on tomato plants, April 13, 2011

While I finally had to give up growing tomatoes in Roanoke, Virginia because of deer, there is no truth to the rumor that I moved to the Crystal Coast of North Carolina just so I could grow tomatoes and win the annual tomato growing contest that I started several years ago.

However, living along North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks has been good to me in more than one part of my life.  I will admit that I have won two out of the last three years. Last year there was some controversy as to the winner with both Dean, my local competitor, and Mike, my boyhood friend, claiming victory.

While I am very interested in winning the tomato contest with the first home grown tomato of the season, I am even more interested in extending the tomato season like I had in the fall of 2008.  The last couple of years blossom end rot possibly aided by excessive precipitation has cut short our season with the last tomatoes coming well before the first frost.

In 2007, I picked tomatoes well into the month of December.  The next year, 2008, I planted my tomatoes earlier on April 3.  In 2010 and 2011, they went into the ground much earlier around March 23.

In 2011 we did have a late frost that went all the way down to the river, but I covered my tiny plants so my early season crop has not been derailed.

When I grew tomatoes in the mountains of Virginia, I felt lucky to get them in the ground by the third week in April.  Even then we were lucky in Virginia to get a ripe tomato almost three months later by the second week in July.

Here on the coast, the extra heat and getting our plants into the ground in late March makes about six weeks of difference.  In 2008, I managed a June 1 ripe tomato. Typically we get a ripe tomato in about nine weeks after planting here in Carteret County.

There are only 52 days left between April 13 and June 1 so I am guessing we are going to a few days later this year, but time will tell.  I still am predicting a ripe tomato before the end of the first week of June.

I have a lot of work into my crop this year since I started all my plants except one from seed.

However, the taste  of the first homegrown tomato sandwich of the year makes it all worthwhile.