Hamilton College Community Farm

Plant: Tomatoes

Family: Nightshade

Seed Varieties Dates to Maturity:
Heirloom Varieties:
  • Brandywine
  • Fabulous
  • Green Zebra - Green striped variety
Sauce Varieties:
  • Amish Paste - Sauce Tomato
  • Roma - Standard sauce tomato
Cherry Varieties:
  • Mexico Midget
  • Peacevine
Pear Varieties:
  • Beams Yellow Pear
Indoor Start Date and Cell size:

Plant on 4/11 in open 200s

Greenhouse Transplant Date and Cell Size:

Transplant on 5/2 into 38s

Outdoor Transplant Date and Bed Specifications:

Transplant outside on 5/23. Be sure that there is no chance of frost, as tomatoes will not withstand the cold. Plant the seedlings every two feet with two rows per bed.

Planting Tips:

Be sure to transplant on time. It is very easy to let it go and the plants will be stunted and never really recover. When transplanting outside bury plant up to first leaves. Each of the little hairs on the stem will turn into roots.

Plant Needs:

Tomatoes must have some sort of support system or the weight of the fruit will cause the whole plant to fall over. The method used in the past is a stake and weave method. Place square, wooden, four-foot stake between every two tomato plants. Beginning when the plants are about two feet tall, weave twine twice to form an X between two tomato plants. The twine will pass to the left of one plant, to the right of the next, and then wrap around a stake before moving on to the next pair of plants. Once the end of the row is reached, work in reverse so plants are being supported by twine from each side. An efficient way to twine is by thread the twine through an extra length of main line drip tape tubing, then tie the working end to the end stake and weave down and back through the stakes. Be sure not to pinch any vines and maintain a taught line. There should be several levels of twine spaced every six to twelve inches.

Suckering is another important part of tomato plant care. Tomatoes produce two branches from each node; a sucker on top and a true branch on the bottom. The sucker does not produce as much and only saps energy from the growing plant. It is important to pull off the suckers up to about 1 foot or just before the first flower bunch on the plant. Do this early on and repeat over a few weeks to ensure all are removed. The earlier the suckers are removed the less energy will be wasted in their growth. Be sure to get even those at ground level or what appear to be tiny suckers. If they are not pulled, they will turn into a second main stem, which is not horrible but dilutes production strength.

Cultivation Techniques:

Stirrup or collinear hoes work great early on for weed control. At some, it will be necessary to switch to hand weeding when the plants are big enough because it is difficult to get in between the plants and around the twine without going by hand. Hand weeding can accompany tying up any drooping branches.

Pests and Pest Control:

Blight has been a problem in the past. If blight is suspected or is in the area, contact the Cornell Cooperative for further advice.

Harvest Techniques:

Harvest after the dew has dried from plants, as harvesting when the plants are wet will increase the spread of disease. Use the red-handled harvesting sheers to carefully cut heirloom varieties from the vine, being sure not to damage fruit or plant. Sauce varieties come off of the vine easily, without being cut. For cherry and pear varieties, pluck them from the vine carefully by hand and twist off the stems so they cause no damage during storage. Cherry and pear varieties are prone to splitting, especially if the weather has been wet. Do not sell split tomatoes, but they can be harvested and used within the day. During the height of their production, tomatoes must be harvested at least every other day.


Do no stack tomatoes more than one layer deep. Ask Bon Appe´tit for blue bread trays which stack and are perfect for storing heirloom varieties. Romas are tougher and can be stored in milk crates. Cherry and pears can be harvested into buckets, but do not fill more than about 10 inches, or the fruit on the bottom will be severely damaged. Do not refrigerate tomatoes, as this will decrease their flavor. Instead, keep them in a cool, well-ventilated place for up to three days. After this, they really must be used.


For retail, heirlooms are $6.00 per quart or $2.00 each, sauce varieties are $4.00 per quart, and cherry and pear varieties are $3.50 per pint. For wholesale, all are $1.50 per pound.

Companion Planting:

Tomatoes can be planted with aromatic plants.