Rugters Tomato Seeds (500mg):
The legendary 'Jersey' tomato, introduced in 1934, is a cross between J.T.D. (an old New Jersey variety from the Campbell Soup Co.) and Marglobe. Its flavor, both for slicing and cooking, is still unequaled. Red fruits are slightly flattened. Tall vines, fusarium resistant.
When starting your tomato seeds be sure you have a place where they can get enough light. Even a sunny, south-facing window is barely adequate. Consider using a grow light to supplement sunlight. Don't start plants too early. Sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before transplanting outside. Plant them 1/8 inch deep in sterile seed starting mix in flats or cells. Seeds germinate best at 75 F to 90 F. Then grow transplants at about 70 F. Don't rush to transplant, either. Cold soil and air temperatures can stress plants. Wait at least a week or two after the last frost. Nighttime temperatures should be consistently above 45°F. Use black plastic mulch to warm soil and/or row covers, hot caps or other protection to keep plants warm early in the season. Remove covers whenever temperatures exceed 85°F. Harden off plants before transplanting by reducing water and fertilizer, not by exposing to cold temperatures, which can stress them and stunt growth.
Transplants exposed to cold temperatures (60°F to 65°F day and 50°F to 60°F night) are more prone to catfacing. 12 to 24" apart for determinate varieties, 14 to 20" apart for staked indeterminate varieties, 24 to 36" apart for unstaked indeterminate varieties. Unlike most plants, tomatoes do better if planted deeper than they were grown in containers. Set them in the ground so that the soil level is just below the lowest leaves. Roots will form along the buried stem, establishing a stronger root system. To reduce root disease risk, don't plant on soils that have recently grown tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant for at least two years. Mulch plants after the soil has warmed up to maintain soil moisture and suppress weeds. Tomatoes need a consistent supply of moisture. If it rains less than 1 inch per week, water to make up the difference. Many factors (in addition to your choice of variety) affect total yield, first harvest and fruit quality. Raised beds, black plastic mulch and providing consistent moisture by watering or through drip irrigation are good ways to improve all three. How you provide support to plants can also affect performance. Determinate varieties do not need staking. But staking and pruning indeterminate varieties can hasten first harvest by a week or more, improve fruit quality, keep fruit cleaner, and make harvest easier.
Staking and pruning usually reduces total yield, but fruits will tend to be larger. Staked and pruned plants are also more susceptible to blossom end rot and sunscald. Allowing indeterminate varieties to sprawl reduces labor, but takes up more space and plants are more prone to disease. Wooden tomato stakes are typically about 6 feet long and 1" square, but you can use similar materials. Drive stakes at least 8 to 10 inches deep at or soon after transplanting so as not to damage roots. Prune tomatoes to one or two vigorous stems by snapping off "suckers" (stems growing from where leaf stems meet the main stem) when they are 2 to 4 inches long. Tie stems to stake with soft string, twine or cloth, forming a figure-8 with the stem in one loop and the stake in the other. This gives the stem room to expand without being constricted.
Start about 8 to 12 inches above the ground and continue to tie at similar intervals as the plant grows. As an alternative to using individual stakes, grow several plants in a row between heavy-duty stakes or posts spaced about 4 feet apart, and use twine to weave in and out around posts and plants. Growing tomatoes in cages is a good compromise between labor-intensive staking and just letting them sprawl. You can purchase tomato cages at your local garden center, or simply bend a 6-foot-long piece of 4- to 6-inch wire mesh into a cylinder about 22 inches in diameter. (Cattle fencing or concrete reinforcing wire mesh work well for this.) Place cage around plants soon after transplanting and anchor with stakes. Avoid excessive N applications, which can cause excessive foliage and poor fruit set. Also avoid using fresh manure or high nitrogen fertilizers (those with three or more times nitrogen than phosphorus or potassium). Poor fruit set can also be caused by heavy rainfall or temperatures that are either too high (above 90 F) or too low (below 55 F). On most soils, you can sidedress about 1/2 cup of 5-10-5 per plant and work shallowly into the top inch of soil when fruits are about 1" in diameter and again when harvest begins.
To avoid other common tomato problems:
Keep soil evenly moist to prevent blossom end rot. This can also help prevent cracking when fruit absorbs water too fast after heavy rain following dry conditions. Catfacing (misshapen, deformed fruit) is caused by incomplete pollination, usually due to cold weather. Don't rush to transplant until weather has stabilized and soil is warm.
Fruit that is fully ripened on the vine has a much fuller flavor than fruits that are picked early and then allowed to ripen. Many cherry tomatoes, however, have a tendency to crack if they stay on the plant, so they should be picked at the peak of redness, or even a tad before. Watch the bottoms carefully; that's where tomatoes start to ripen. Some varieties, primarily large heirloom types, ripen before they reach full color. Pick tomatoes when the skin still looks smooth and waxy, even if the top hasn't turned its mature color (whether red, purple, pink or golden yellow). Cut off the top of the plant, or remove all new flower clusters about a month before the first expected frost. That way, you'll direct the plant's energy into ripening existing tomatoes rather than producing new ones that won't have time to mature. When daytime fall temperatures are consistently below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, fruit will no longer ripen on the vine, so it is time to bring all mature green fruits indoors, either on the vine or off.
Saving tomato seeds is a fairly simple process. Every tomato seed is covered in a gelatinous sack which contains chemicals that inhibit seed germination. This prevents the seeds from sprouting whilst inside the tomato fruit. In nature the fruit drops from the plant and slowly rots away on the ground. This is the natural fermentation process and it is during this that the gelatinous sacks are destroyed. To save tomato seeds yourself you need to duplicate the fermentation process. This will not only remove the gelatinous sack but also kills any seed borne tomato diseases. Firstly cut the tomato fruits across the middle and then squeeze the tomato seeds and the gel into a container, making sure that you label the container with the tomato variety. The container of tomato seeds then needs to be put to one side to ferment for about three days. During this time the container of seeds will smell horrible and will go moldy. When the mold has covered the top of the container add water and stir the mixture. The good seeds will sink to the bottom of the container and the mold and hollow seeds can then be poured off. Add more water and continue the progress until only clean seeds remain. You can also put the mold and seeds into a sieve and wash under running water until just the clean seeds remain. Next spread out the seeds on a glass or ceramic plate to dry, which can take about 12 days, making sure that you label the plate with the tomato variety. The dried seeds can then be put into a labelled envelope. Saved seeds should store for 5 - 10 years if kept in the right conditions.