Make your relatives, friends, and neighbors jealous! Is it possible to have home grown vine ripened tomatoes in late May or early June? Yes! According to the folks at Territorial Seeds, the object in culturing tomatoes is to raise the largest plant possible at transplant when the last spring frost has passed. This is exactly what we do. These plants have a root system that will surpass any tomatoes grown together enmass in a shallow six-pack. Large root systems are capable of absorbing large amounts of nutrients from the soil enabling the plant to produce abundant fruit. Other benefits include maintaining plant health in warding off nutritional disorders, diseases, and withstand unfavorable weather and pest stress.
Harden plants by exposing them gradually to their new environment by setting them outside on a sunny day, but in the shade. Bring them in at night for a few days until they are able to withstand full sun then outside overnight. Plant about May 10 (most years and hardiness zone 6), unless you have some sort of shelter in form of a greenhouse or cloche then you can set them out earlier. Mix ½ to 1 cup of complete fertilizer (organic with micro nutrients is best) to the transplant hole (30 x 30 x 30 cm). Tomatoes prefer a rich well worked soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5. Remove lowest two sets of leaves and bury with the next set an inch above soil surface. Stake, cage, or weave through fencing. Feed every week with a dilute mixture of a balanced organic liquid feed. Avoid wetting the leaves and if possible protect from rain as blight thrives on moisture. Vigorous plants should be side dressed to ensure mature fruit colour. If good garden soil is hard to come by in your area, the soil is too cold, or can't dig a deep enough transplant hole, a couple of used truck tires (larger is better) stacked over the hole provides a makeshift raised bed. Fill the cavity with well fortified soil as the season progresses. Remove leaves as not to bury them. If cut worm is a problem in your area, encircle the stem with a collar made from a paper tube or newspaper layers. Set collars one inch into the soil. Make sure your soil has enough calcium or your tomatoes will suffer blossom end rot or a blah flavor. A blah flavor or a tough skin also occurs if the tomatoes are not watered enough or suffer from heat stress as vines need constant, even moisture. A dressing of 2-3 inches of mulch helps in moisture retention. Plants will thrive on 12 hours of sun a day so you can plant them in a breezy area with some protection (e.g. under the house eaves) without worrying about supplying your plants 'full' sun. Companion plant with basil and carrots. To ensure a harvest of ripe or semi ripe tomatoes before the first killing frost, by late summer pinch off blossoms, buds, and growing terminals to promote fruit ripening existing fruit a solution of 1/2 cup of Epsom salts per gallon hastens ripening. If weather threatens the crop, cut plant at root level and hang or lay in a rack to permit ripening. Green tomatoes can be individually wrapped in newspaper, stored at 50-60 F, holding quality for several months. Rooted cuttings of suckers are a great way of over wintering varieties indoors without having to dig up a monster plant.
SMOKERS: Wash your hands or wear gloves when examining tomatoes and other nightshade family members prevents spreading the tobacco mosaic virus.
Note: the colour red, oddly enough, makes tomatoes ripen their fruits faster (one fellow described it as a competition thing where a plant with ripe fruit is more likely to have greater success in dispersing seed than an unripe green one) so there maybe there is is something to red plastic mulch.