Each month Redawna Kalynchuk draws on her extensive gardening experience to guide you through Growing Your Own Food in Canada. Is there anything better than a just-picked tomato, still warm from the summer sunshine? Redawna tells you everything you need to know for growing tomatoes in Canada.
One of the most rewarding moments in gardening is when you enjoy your first vine-ripened tomato picked straight from the plant, still warm from the sun. A tomato grown by you. And in that moment as you realize how amazing homegrown food tastes, you vow to double the amount of plants you'll grow next season. Growing tomatoes in Canada isn't hard - it just requires a little planning and care.
There are so many different tomatoes to choose from. Different varieties are used for different applications — some are better for saucing while others are preferred for canning or juicing. We'll take a look at the different varieties and what they're best suited for.
What Are the Tomato Growing Basics?
Choosing and Prepping the Site For Your Tomatoes
Tomatoes like it hot so be sure to place them in a hot, full-sun location; a minimum of eight hours of sun exposure a day is best.
Work the planting site well and add amendments to the soil like compost and peat moss for long-time feeding and to lighten the weight of the soil, which is especially helpful with container grown tomatoes. If growing in containers use at minimum a four-gallon sized pot for each plant.
When To Plant Tomatoes
Also make note of the days to maturity on the seed packages or tomato seedlings and buy according to your growing zone and frost dates. For the very best results you want to get varieties that are best suited to your growing location. To get an extra early start on the season you can start the seeds weeks before you plan on moving them outdoors.
Tomatoes like support, so be sure to get tomato cages at the garden centre. They're inexpensive and last for many years. They help hold the weight of the tomatoes and prevent the plants from falling over. They also allow for light to reach the inner parts of the plant.
It's best to set the cages early on in the season so the plants can grow into the cage. Trying to cage larger plants often results in damaging the plants in an effort to make them fit.
Tips For Watering Tomatoes
Be sure to water well and if you are growing in containers, water often. The water needs for growing tomatoes is high and you'll need to water container grown tomatoes daily during hot weather.
Feeding Your Tomatoes
A regular feeding schedule will help improve yields. There are fertilizers on the market specifically for growing tomatoes. Alternately you can feed them using compost from your own composting efforts at home.
What's the Difference Between Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes?
Tomatoes have two growth patterns:
- Determinate tomatoes bloom and set fruit all at once and then die as their season is over; and,
- Indeterminate tomatoes grow and produce fruit constantly and only die once frost arrives.
This information helps you better plan for the season. For example, if you'd like to do a large canning marathon, you'd be better off growing a selection of tomatoes that will ripen at the same time. Though be sure to grow both kinds to have a fresh supply of tomatoes the entire season.
What Are Some Common Varieties of Tomatoes?
Roma tomatoes are a type of plum or paste tomato. They're oval or egg shaped and are the preferred tomato for sauces and pastes as they're drier, meatier and have less seeds. Their texture is perfect for cooking because of the low moisture content, so they require shorter cooking and processing time.
They can also be canned as whole plum tomatoes; be sure to select the firmer ones for canning. Another great way to enjoy your romas are to season them well, drizzle with oil and roast them in the oven until dried. Once you try it you'll make them often!
- Variety Tip: San Marzano are a popular type of Roma, raved about as the very best for sauces and pastes.
Cherry Tomatoes are small globe or grape shaped fruits that come in a multitude of colours. They grow in clusters and are a great choice for growing in containers on the patio. They're best enjoyed fresh and do well being frozen to be enjoyed later in the year in soups, stews and chili. Here's lots of things you can do with Cherry Tomatoes!
- Variety Tip: Sweet 100's are a popular cherry tomato variety.
Beefsteak tomatoes are large meaty tomatoes that have multiple seed compartments throughout the fruit. They come in a variety of colours and can grow up to three pounds pounds. In addition to being enjoyed fresh, beefsteaks can also be used for juicing or canned as diced tomatoes. Sometimes one slice is all you need for a sandwich!
- Variety Tip: Brandywine is a common beefsteak variety.
Heirloom tomato varieties are becoming more popular every year. Gone are the days of people wanting perfect red round tomatoes. Consumers are wanting the flavourful multi-coloured fruits that were bred with exceptional flavour in mind. Because they're so juicy they're best enjoyed fresh soon after harvest, and are the perfect option for juicing. They're also a good choice for dehydrating, which compounds their spectacular flavour.
Explore Your Tomato Options
Your options are endless, so have fun and mix up your selection. With so many different kinds of tomatoes available you can be sure to have a great supply all season long for fresh eating as well as for your canning needs.
Be sure to take notes on the varieties you grow, how they did, and any growing specifics that you think are important. Make your notes as detailed as possible. You may never know when you'll need to refer back to them and will appreciate the finer details years down the road.
What Can I Cook With Tomatoes?
We're so glad you asked! We've got loads of tomato recipe ideas:
- 12 Tomato Recipes to Celebrate Summer
- 13 More Tomato Recipes to Celebrate Summer
- Little Package, Big Flavour - Recipes for Cherry Tomatoes
- Grow Your Own Food: How to Grow Garlic
- Grow Your Own Food: Mulching, Weeding and Saving Seeds
- Grow Your Own Food: A Guide To Garden Irrigation
Grow Your Own Food is written by Redawna Kalynchuk. Redawna is the writer, photographer and content creator at Nutmeg Disrupted. She has over 20 years of gardening experience and has gardened from indoors under high-powered lights to frosty zone 2b gardens in northern Alberta. She enjoys pushing the boundaries of traditional gardening and loves empowering others to grow their own food. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.