Thick Tomato Skins: What Causes Tough Tomato Skin

Thick Tomato Skins: What Causes Tough Tomato Skin

By: Heather Rhoades

Tomato skin thickness is something most gardeners don’t think about — until their tomatoes have thick skins that detract from the succulent texture of the tomato. Are tough tomato skins unavoidable? Or can you take steps to make the skins on your tomato a little less tough?

What Makes Tomatoes Have Thick Skin?

There are typically three things that can cause tomatoes with tough skins. These things are:

  • Variety
  • Watering
  • Temperature

Tomato Variety Causes Tough Tomato Skin

The most common reason for thick tomato skins is simply variety. Some varieties of tomatoes just have thicker skins, and mostly for good reason. Roma tomatoes, plum tomatoes, and crack resistant tomato varieties will naturally have thick tomato skins.

Roma tomatoes and plum tomatoes have thick skins partially because they have been bred that way. Roma tomatoes and plum tomatoes are often used for canning and drying. Thick or tough tomato skins help with these preserving processes. Thick tomato skins are easier to remove when canning and thick, tough tomato skins also hold together better when dried.

Crack resistant tomato varieties have also been bred to have tough tomato skins. It is the thick skin on the tomatoes that makes them less likely to crack.

Under Watering Affects Tomato Skin Thickness

When tomato plants have too little water, they can develop tomato fruit with thick skins. This is a survival reaction on the tomato plant’s part. When the tomato plant has continually too little water, it will take steps to conserve the water it does get. One way a tomato plant conserves water is by growing tomatoes with thicker skins. The thick skin on the tomatoes, holds water in better.

One way to avoid your tomato plants growing thick skinned tomatoes is to make sure that your garden’s getting enough water, particularly during times of prolonged drought. Watering tomatoes the right amount will help normally thin skinned tomatoes keep their thin skin.

High Temperatures Makes Tomatoes Have Thick Skin

High heat can also cause a tomato plant to have thick skin. In high heat, tomato fruit can be scalded by the sun. In order to prevent sunscald on the tomato fruit, the tomato plants will start to produce tomatoes with tougher skins. The tough tomato skins are less likely to burn in the intense sunlight.

If you get a sudden heat wave and you want to avoid thick tomatoes skins, you can provide some shade for your tomato plants during the hottest times of the day to help keep them from starting to make thick skin tomato fruit.

If you live in an area where high heat is just a fact of life, you may actually want to seek out thick skin tomato varieties. While the skins on your tomatoes may be thicker, your tomato plant will produce more fruit and you will be less likely to lose tomato fruit to sun damage.

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Why is the skin of my tomato plants tough and chewy?

It's usually caused by high temperatures, Fran.

Heat. I have that problem too.

I live in zone 9 where it gets blazing hot in summer. I get my tomatoes out as early as possible, and the harvest by the end of June is perfect, but anything after that the skins get thicker due to 100°+ temps. Then they go dormant until fall and start producing again. They will not set fruit if the daytime temps are 90°or higher.

Tomato skins get thick and tough when the heat is especially high. This helps the plant from getting sun burned. It is a natural reaction the tomato has for its own fruit. If they are in planter pots maybe you can move them not to get so much direct sunlight. If you have them in the ground, you might consider moving the area where they are planted next year if you can where they might have partial shade in the afternoon. Hope this helps, Fran.

Hi Fran: Here are some things you can do for next years crop to prevent skins that grow thicker than normal: water well while the plants are fruiting. A plant that “senses” a dry season will develop a thick, tough skin to protect the seeds. You don’t want to overwater, though, as this will dilute the flavor. Also, make sure the plants are being fertilized properly, so their growth is not checked by lack of nutrients. You can put a netting over the tops of the tomato plants to give some dappled sun during the period of searing sun and heat of the day. Good luck

Tough Tomato Skins: What Makes Tomato Have Thick Skin - garden

Variety can make a difference as Bobber said -- tomatoes that are bred for crack resistance tend to have thicker skin.

But any tomato can thicken up its skin in drought or under watering. It is a defensive reaction to help preserve the moisture. High temperatures contribute to that also. Don't know if any of that applies to you . I don't think of Honolulu as being dry.

I don't have a specific answer to your question but variety may be the issue. I found this - it is university research based and region specific. Hope it helps for future planting.

Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

Thanks for the article, Elizabeth.

Here's the name of the tomato: "Ace 55 VF" and it is a thick skinned variety. Here's a bit of what I googled:

Some people prefer thicker skinned tomatoes because they are easier to scald and skin or to cook and separate out with a mechanical strainer.

I have also heard that thicker skinned fruits are less bothered by stink bugs, though I don't have personal experience about that.

Personally I don't like tough skin on fresh-eating tomatoes. But on the other hand, they peel off pretty easily from ripe tomatoes even without scalding.

How to Grow Tomatoes: The Complete Guide

Want to learn how to grow your own tomatoes? We certainly don’t blame you. Everyone enjoys the taste of a home grown tomato. The sweetness, the firmness, the juiciness – who wouldn’t choose a home-grown tomato over a store bought one? Tomatoes are also high in Vitamins A, C and Lycopene which has cancer-fighting antioxidants.

Home grown tomatoes are a wonderful addition to the garden, but good tomatoes do take a little work, a lot of water and a lot of sun. Below is information on growing tomatoes, handy gardening tips to get the best tomatoes possible, and information on companion planting to give tomatoes the best environment possible.

Growing Tomatoes from Seed vs. from Starter Plants

Many people like to grow tomatoes from seeds. This is okay as long as seeds are started long before the gardening season arrives. It’s also a good idea if planting Heirloom Tomatoes or if the garden supply centers don’t carry a wide variety of tomato plants. If, instead, the garden supply centers carry a wide variety – the fastest, easiest way to grow a tomato plant is to purchase it at the store.

What Type of Tomato is the Best Type to Grow?

Heirlooms, hybrids, determinate, indeterminate – what does all this mean in the world of tomatoes?

Heirloom tomatoes are tomatoes passed down from generation to generation by saving seeds at the end of each harvest. These seeds can be purchased from online or catalog sources, or a neighbor or relative may be willing to share their seeds.

Heirloom tomatoes are not as productive as hybrid plants, but the variety, color and taste are unmatched. Heirloom tomatoes come in colors such as salmon pink, yellow, purple, red, orange and even green. Some are striped and others grow in unusual shapes. A few of the more popular Heirloom varieties rated for flavor include Brandywine, Caspian Pink and Hillbilly.

Heirloom tomatoes also have a tendency to produce tomatoes continuously throughout the season.

Hybrid tomatoes are tomato plants that have been bred for specific reasons – to be disease resistant, to grow larger tomatoes, etc. Hybrids often produce higher yields of fruit, mature earlier, have a more uniform appearance and a higher fruit quality. Hybrid tomatoes are favored over other tomatoes for their disease resistance.

All hybrids are not alike though. In order to determine the diseases a tomato plant is resistant to, refer to the label. The letters on the plant tag will provide information on what diseases the plant will resist. Hybrid (F1) Tomatoes are hybrid plants that are a first generation cross between several tomatoes.

Determinate tomatoes have a pre-determined growth and are often called bush tomatoes. These normally get about three feet tall and are great for smaller gardens. They are also easier to keep contained in tomato cages than the more rambling tomato vines. Determinate varieties tend to bear fruit early in the season.

Indeterminate tomatoes don’t stop growing and are more vine-like than the other tomatoes. They tend to sprawl over the whole garden and have to be staked once they grow over the top of the tomato cage. Indeterminate varieties bear fruit later than other varieties.

Semi-determinate tomatoes have combinations of both determinate and indeterminate varieties.

Other types of tomatoes include early tomatoes, more likely to set fruit at lower temperatures cool-summer tomatoes, more likely to prosper in the northern climates small-fruit tomatoes like grape and cherry tomatoes and plum tomatoes, with thick meat and a small seed cavity. Roma tomatoes are a popular plum tomato.

Tomato Label Information

V – Resistant to Verticillium Wilt

FF – Resistant to Fusarium 1 and 2

N – Resistant to Nematodes

T – Resistant to Tobacco mosaic virus

A – Resistant to Alternaria stem canker

St – Resistant to Stemphylium which is gray leaf spot

SWV – Resistant to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus

Growing Tomato Plants from Seeds

If growing Heirloom tomatoes, they will most probably have to be grown from seed. Very few garden supply centers stock heirloom tomato plants. Many people who wish to save money and enjoy starting plants from seed, also like to start other tomato plants from seed. In order to do so, seeds need to be started indoors 5-6 weeks before the last frost.

Plant seeds in two parts soil and one part compost, vermiculite or perlite. Place seeds in holes 2-3 inches apart. Keep in a warm, dark place until seedlings sprout. This will take form 6-14 days. Light isn’t necessary until plants can be seen.

Once plants appear, move them to a bright, cool location – make sure it doesn’t get lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit at night though. This will keep plants from growing tall and spindly and will allow the roots to develop.

When plants have 1-2 leaves, they can be transplanted into larger pots, burying them a little deeper than they were grown before. About two weeks before transplanting outside, set them out in the shade during the day and bring them inside at night to slowly acclimate them to the outdoors.

Once plants are hardened off and the evening temperature is consistently above 55 degrees Fahrenheit plants can be planted into the prepared garden soil.

Purchasing and Planting Starter Tomato Plants

If purchasing plants from a garden supply center, there are a few things to look for to insure healthy plants dark green leaves, sturdy stems, no signs of pest (like chew marks or holes in the leaves). If plants have yellowed or brown leaves or speckling on the leaves, this is not a good choice.

It’s also wise to leave plants that have flowers – they are stressed if they are flowering so quickly. It’s hard to turn away a plant that is sure to have a tomato in a few days – but it’s not always the best choice for the garden.

Plant seedlings in the ground after all danger of frost has passed and the nights are in the 50’s. Most gardeners suggest planting tomatoes by laying the roots and the bottom of the stem in a trench about 4 inches deep (removing all but the topmost leaves) and burying the stem along with the roots in the ground.

This vertical burial will enable roots to grow all along the buried stem, produce a sturdier foundation and give the plant a better chance to absorb water and other nutrients from the soil. With the root system closer to the surface of the soil, the plant will also have more heat, which will enable it to produce earlier tomatoes.

Of course, in really hot areas this could also backfire. If planting late in summer, it might be a good idea to plant the roots a little deeper so they don’t get too hot and burn.

Place plants about 2 to 4 feet apart in rows approximately three feet apart. Tomato plants need air circulation, so don’t crowd them. Plants can be planted in rows and watered between the rows, or you can plant them in rows, then dig a trench completely around the tomato plant.

This way each tomato plant will get water on all sides of the root system.

Growing Tomato Plants Indoors

Tomato plants can also be grown indoors in a pot with drainage holes in the bottom, but they will need a VERY sunny location. A south window or artificial light will provide the light necessary to enable tomatoes to grow and bloom. Fill the container with two parts soil and one part compost or vermiculite before planting.

Popular Tomato Varieties

Celebrity, Big Boy and Better Boy are well known, popular tomato plants. For high heat areas, Heatwave is a good choice. A popular Hybrid tomato is Beefsteak – one of the giants in tomatoes. And plum tomatoes, grape and cherry tomatoes are always popular for indoor gardens and for those who like to serve them in salads.

Roma is the most popular of the plum tomatoes. Smaller fruited tomatoes are Tiny Tim, Patio and Small Fry.

How to Grow Tomato Plants

Tomatoes like at least eight hours of full sun a day. If they don’t get enough sun, the plants will grow spindly and produce little or no blooms. When choosing a garden spot, make sure the area gets at least eight hours or more of sun during the day. In addition, the area needs to be a well-drained area that doesn’t hold pools of water when it rains.

Many tomato diseases are the result of poor drainage. If the only area in the yard for a garden isn’t well-drained, it’s a good idea to plant in a raised bed instead.

In order to give tomatoes a fertile soil to grow in, compost or organic matter (horse manure works great) can be tilled into the soil. A few weeks before planting, cover the garden area with about three to four inches of compost or organic matter, then till this in to the top five to six inches of soil.

This will also break up any clods and make the soil easier for the roots to penetrate.

At the time of planting, it’s a good time to put tomato cages over the plants or to ready the trellis or other device to support the tomato plants. Another way to grow tomatoes is by having stakes at each end of the garden and stringing rope from one stake to the other.

Since tomatoes are vines, they will enjoy climbing along the ropes. It’s important to check on the plants daily and train them to grow along the ropes though. It may also be necessary to lightly tie them to the ropes with gardening tape or a soft ribbon. Ties should be loose so plants won’t be cut when they begin to grow larger. Soft cloth or green florist tape can be used to tie plants so they won’t be harmed.

How to Water Tomatoes

Tomatoes like a lot of water – but they don’t want to have their roots sitting in water. An even amount of watering is important for the plant to do well. Too much water can cause disease such as flower drop, fruit-splitting or blossom-end rot. Not enough water can cause wilting. And uneven watering can cause cat-facing lines, cracks and openings in the fruit.

So how much water is enough? Tomatoes need regular water, but they don’t like soggy soil. Soil should be kept evenly moist. In climates where the temperatures rise to 100 degrees or more during the day, this may mean watering every day. In cooler areas, watering every two to three days may suffice. Water slowly and deeply.

Another thing that helps control the watering and keeps the soil from drying out completely between watering is mulching. Mulch helps the soil retain water in dry climates and helps to keep the soil warm in cooler climates.

Mulching with three to four inches of compost, straw or hay will keep plants from heat stress and keep the roots from drying out. This will also help prevent weeds from growing around the base of the plants.

Never water the leaves of the tomato plant. Always keep water pointed toward the base of the plant, away from the leaves, and try to keep the leaves dry. When leaves become wet, tomato plants are more likely to suffer from diseases. Never use a sprinkler or overhead watering device on tomato plants.

Fertilizer for Tomatoes

Tomato plants can be fertilized once they begin to flower. In organic gardens, horse manure is a good fertilizer that will help tomatoes grow. Just make sure to put the manure at least two to three inches out from the base of the plant and water it into the ground thoroughly. Any closer could cause the manure to burn the plant base.

If fertilizing tomatoes, make sure the fertilizer isn’t high in nitrogen. Too much nitrogen will keep plants from blooming, or they will drop their blooms. It’s better to use a fertilizer formulated especially for tomatoes or one that is low in nitrogen.

How to Prune Tomatoes

Especially in indeterminate varieties that tend to sprawl and cover half the garden, pruning is often recommended. Pruned plants will have fewer but larger fruit. To prune tomato plants, clip the side shoots that grow where the leaf meets the stem. Plants should not be pruned once they put on fruits.

Many gardeners believe in pulling off the first flowers and allowing the plant to form roots and foliage. Plants are not allowed to form fruit until they are at least a foot tall.

Common Tomato Diseases and Pests

Cat-facing – Irregular shapes and lines appearing at the top of the tomatoes. This is caused by temperature shifts and can often be prevented by not planting too early in the season or by planting varieties resistant to cat-facing.

Blossom-End Rot – Tomatoes turn black at the end of the tomato and seem to rot from the bottom up. This is caused by inconsistent moisture and a calcium deficiency in the soil. It can be brought on by drought, uneven soil moisture or excess nitrogen and high salt levels. Adding calcium to the soil will prevent the problem from occurring.

Sunscald – Fruit will have sunburned looking spots. This is caused when there is a spike in the temperature. Normally the entire fruit rots before it ripens.

Split Skin/Cracking – Any time plants experience accelerated growth when they get too much moisture after a dry spell or if the fruit has been left on the bush too long, skin will crack or split, exposing the soft fleshy insides of the tomato.

Flowers, No Fruit – Often blooms fall off. This can be caused by changes in the weather or not enough water.

Thick, Tough Skin – Some fruits naturally have a tougher skin than others. Dry, hot weather and inconsistent water will also produce thicker skinned tomatoes.

Tomato Hornworm – That ugly, fat caterpillar with the long spike on his head. They blend in among the foliage, are often difficult to spot and they will chew the foliage and ruin the tomatoes.

Blight – Early Blight is caused by a fungus that often survives on older vines and can be found in the soil. Late Blight is often seen in wet weather.

Wilt – Fusarium and Verticillium fungi cause wilt and can kill plants. Fusarium wilt turns branches yellow. Verticillium appears as yellowing between the major veins on the leaves. Southern Bacterial Wilt will kill a plant suddenly. Leaves will wilt while the plant is still green and healthy. If plants are planted in the same soil where the disease has occurred in the past, plants will almost always contract the disease.

Root Knot Nematodes – Microscopic eelworms in the soil harm the roots of plants, causing them to die.

Preventing Tomato Diseases

Many diseases can be prevented by solarizing the soil. This can be done at the end of the season – or the year before if you are planning a new garden site. In the hottest part of the summer, prepare the garden area and moisten the ground lightly.

Cover with a sturdy plastic tarp. Leave tarp in place for at least three to four weeks. This can also be done before readying the garden since most of the grass and weeds will be killed while under the tarp.

By planting disease resistant plants to start with, chances are less likely that plants will contract certain diseases. It’s also important to make sure you don’t plant tomatoes in the same places that other members of the tomato family have grown in the past two years, like peppers, eggplants or potatoes. They can leave diseases or pests in the soil that will attack the newly planted tomato plants.

Companion Planting for Tomatoes

Whether a person believes companion planting is just an old wives tale or whether they believe in it because they’ve actually seen the results, companion planting can often be utilized in the garden to help control diseases and insects.

Many plants have substances in them that repel or attract garden pests. These same substances often help other plants grow and enhance the flavor of their fruits. Plants that work well in companion planting with tomatoes are below:

· Amaranth – This helps repel insects.

· Basil – This repels insects and improves growth and flavor. Also repels some insects.

· Borage – This improves growth and flavor. The borage plant attracts bees and wasps though. It is also said to improve disease resistance of tomatoes.

· Bee Balm, Chives, Parsley, and Mint – These improve flavor.

· Carrots – Carrots are friends of the tomato, but the tomatoes will stunt the growth of carrots – but the flavor will still be great.

· Garlic – This repels red spider mites. A spray of garlic on plants will often control late blight.

· Nasturtiums – These can be planted as a barrier that deters many garden pests.

· Hot Peppers – Their roots have a substance that prevents root rot and other Fusarium diseases. Teas made from peppers can also be used as pest control sprays.

· Petunias – They repel the tomato hornworm.

Other friends of the tomato are Asparagus, Carrots, Celery, Geraniums, Onions, Parsley, Sweet Peppers (Bell), Head Lettuce, and Marigold. Although planting “weeds” in the garden is not always a good idea, below are some that aid in the flavor and growth of tomatoes.

· Stinging Nettle – This improves flavor.

· Thistle – This aids growth.

The plants below ARE NOT good companions for tomatoes.

· Cabbage and others in the cabbage family – These stunt the growth of tomato plants.

· Corn – Corn earworms will eat tomato plants as well

· Dill – Once the dill plant matures, it starts to inhibit tomato plant growth. It also attracts the tomato horn worm.

· Eggplant, Peppers and Potatoes – These are in the same family as the tomato and are susceptible to blight, which can be contracted if planted too close to each other. Planting tomatoes near potatoes will also make the potatoes more susceptible to potato blight.

· Fennel – This inhibits plant growth.

· Walnuts – Since the walnut tree produces a chemical that inhibits the growth of tomatoes, it’s not a good idea to plant tomatoes under walnut tress. Tomatoes can also contract walnut wilt.

Tomatoes also aid in the growth of other plants:

· Roses – Tomatoes protect them from black spot. Interplanted in a flower bed, these two make great companions.

Harvesting Tomatoes

Most tomatoes plants won’t set fruit until the temperature is consistently above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fruit should be harvested when it’s fully ripened, a solid color and still firm. The longer the fruit is left on the vine, the better the taste. Cut or gently twist fruit off, making sure not to damage the vine.

Once harvested, tomatoes should not go in the refrigerator. The cold can take away the flavor of the tomatoes, so it’s best to store tomatoes on the kitchen counter or in a warm, dry place. Tomatoes will begin to lose their flavor as soon as the temperature falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If tomatoes are still on the vine when cold temperatures threaten, tomatoes can be harvested early and stored in a warm place away from the light. NOT ON THE WINDOWSILL! Those on the window sill will only turn red – they won’t have any of the sweet, vine-ripened tomato flavor. Those that are allowed to ripen naturally, away from the light, will eventually ripen and will have a better flavor.

Saving Tomato Seeds

Now that the season is over, seeds can be salvaged for next year’s crop. It’s wise not to save fruits from the first fruits of the season. A good rule of thumb is to pick at least one ripe fruit a day from several different plants. An easy way to get the seeds out is to use a juicer and strain the seeds out of the juice (The juice can be used in cooking or to drink).

Wash seeds and spread on a paper plate or paper towel to dry. When putting seeds away make sure to put them in a dry location and LABEL them! Enjoy!

Tracey Moore-Sweeney is a self-taught writer who started writing stories and newspaper articles at a young age. She has had several how-to articles published in addition to being writer and editor for a variety of church, school and organizational newsletters. With a wide variety of hobbies and interests, the sky is the limit on what Ms. Moore-Sweeney writes.



Dianna says

Can you please tell me why growing tips on tomatoes sometimes turn a purple colour? The plants are young and about half a meter tall and otherwise very healthy and sturdy. Could it be lack of potash perhaps?

Barbara Turley says

Thank you for a complete & articulated
Article. I have Cherokee purple plants, no flowers and quite a sprawl. We’re in 105 heat since I planted them & smoke from many fires. Who knew! Do you think they will ever produce? I have
Pruned them and do use a large umbrella to shade in late afternoon now. I have Sweeney cousin in ct.

siscrutcher says

Thin-skinned tomatoes

Which varieties have the thinnest skin? Eventhough I love the taste of home grown tomatoes, somehow I haven't managed to grow any that has the thin skin like the bland store bought variety. Am I growing them wrong or do I just need to get the right varieties?

Never much noticed but I'd say the thin skin are mostly the beefsteak variety. Good question ! Why are you interested in thin skin varieties ?

It's my mom. She prefers the thin skin. I don't have a preference but you know how it is when Mama says.

Haven't tried growing any of the beefsteak kind. There's always next year.

Don't you have two seasons like I do ?

Variety X grown this summer with thin skins can be grown next year and have tough skins.

There is no one answer to why this is so and most authorities say weather, without being able to say WHAT factors are involved.

I know of few varieties that consistently have tough skins, King Humbert, a pre 1800 variety, being one of them.

Basically luck of the draw in any given growing season.

I guess I do have 2 seasons but am not sure if I still have time to start some from seeds. What would be a good beefsteak variety for me to try? Maybe I can find something from the local nurseries.

Thank you, Carolyn. I am relieved by your answer. I'll just grow by taste and hope for the best.

Youo do have two seasons in Orange but for the Fall crop you needed to start seeds back in mid August or so to set out in mid September, or so.

The nurseries in your area have been offering plants, but nothing too exciting, just my take from SCAL folks have been reporting back. But no harm in checking them out for plants and seeing what they still might have.

Quyen, you might also see if anyone can root cuttings of their tomatoes for you, maybe make a post over in plant trading. I would offer, but my tomatoes got hit with a foliage disease earlier this summer, and I don't want to send my blight to you. :-)

Also, while the folks in this forum (myself included) do get really enthusiastic about our heirloom varieties, there's nothing really evil about everyday hybrids such as Better Boy (*ducks for cover*). so go ahead and get a couple of plants at your local nursery or home improvement store.

I bought a 6 pack of Better Boy last month so I do have those. I also have 1 Stupice and 1 Celebrity. Still waiting to be pot up are some Champion, Black Prince, Mrs. Maxwell's, and mystery tomatoes (they came up in my Shasta Daisy seedling cup. ).

But, the cool news is that someone here on DG suggested that I try Laurel's Heirloom Tomatoes since I live in the area. I gave her a call and. I'll be making a trip to Laurel's on Friday. Wooo hooo! What should I buy? Any suggestions?

But, the cool news is that someone here on DG suggested that I try Laurel's Heirloom Tomatoes since I live in the area. I gave her a call and. I'll be making a trip to Laurel's on Friday. Wooo hooo! What should I buy? Any suggestions?

Let Laurel give you the best advice since she's near where you garden. In addition, anyone can look at her website at the varieties but that doesn't mean that she has all of them now for Fall planting.

In general in your area the mid and long season varieties should be grown for a Spring crop and mainly short season varieties for the Fall crop with maybe a mid season poked in here and there.

And say Hi to Laurel for me, and ask her what kind of influence I had on her that got her into the heirloom plant business/ LOL

And of course there's nothing wrong with growing hybrids as Critter mentioned, I do myself from time to time. LOL

Quen, go check the thread ZZtopsoil is posting over in the plant trading forum. Sounds like he may be able to set you up with some of his extra seedlings, if he has any varieties you're looking for. Of course, getting tomatoes from Laurel sounds like a great idea too.

Thanks for the hot tip, critter. I'll still go to Laurel's tomorrow but maybe I won't be spending as much money there as I would have otherwise.

I went to Laurel's this morning. Wow, does she have tomatoes! Nice, friendly lady, too.

I must say that I exerted tremendous self-control and tried to be really realistic with my needs (and ability). I ended up with only 6 varieties: Azoychka, Red Brandywine, Lime Green Salad, Goose Creek, Northern Lights, and Green Zebra. I figure that with these and, hopefully, the ones that I'll be getting from zztopsoil, I'll have plenty of tomatoes to see me through winter. Laurel says that the Goose Creek ripens well in cool weather and that she even picked some last January.

Now I need to buy more potting soil and wire caging stuff. The big Santa Ana wind will be coming through in a few weeks so I gotta get everything anchored down or into shelter. A happily busy weekend is in my future.

As Carolyn mentioned, thin skins are in the throw of the dice category. However, one variety that is consistently thin-skinned, tasty, and relatively disease resistant is the Mortgage Lifter. (Your mileage may vary.) On the other hand, I've never grown a Zebra or Roma VF that wasn't tough-skinned.

Tough Tomato Skins: What Makes Tomato Have Thick Skin - garden

Love tomatoes? Get ready for your best harvest yet, thanks to these easy-grows-it tips.

Homegrown tomatoes deliver flavor and then some. Raising your own crop of sun-ripened 'maters is one of summer’s official best rewards. All it takes to grow outstanding tomatoes is attention to detail. Cover the basics, and you’ll be savoring a delicious harvest.

Choose the Right Varieties

Take time to select tomatoes that suit your growing conditions. Also, select tomatoes that work for how you intend to use them. One of the many benefits of our local garden center is we only stock plants that are proven to do well in our area.

You can find varieties for slicing, sauce making or salads. Lastly, choose varieties that deliver the flavor you crave. For instance, tomatoes exist that offer low acid, higher lycopene content, smoky overtones or intense sweetness.

Plant Deep

The best tomatoes come from plants with a strong root system. Give your plants a head-start on healthy roots by planting seedlings deep in the soil. Start by removing the lowest leaves on your seedling and burying the lower stem. Tomato stems produce roots easily. Any portion of the stem you bury will sprout roots that help nourish and support the fruit-laden plant.

Start the Season Early

An unspoken badge of honor always goes to the gardener with the earliest tomato. You can start seedlings indoors using a Grow Light, a perfect balance of the nutrient plants need in a “light bulb” form!

Stake Tomatoes

Keep tomato vines off the ground to protect ripening fruit from pests and diseases. Hoisting vines with cages or stakes also make it much easier to pick fruit. With tomatoes, disease is one of the top problems you’ll likely encounter. Staking and supporting vines increases airflow around leaves, which can help reduce disease outbreaks. Be sure to choose a tomato support that suits the mature size of the plant.

Water Tomatoes Properly

Tomato plants need consistent watering to yield the most healthy and flavorful fruit. When plants don’t get enough water, the result can be deformed or small tomatoes, and blossom end rot can develop (where the bottom of the tomato turns black). Because of how susceptible tomato plants are to fungus diseases, it’s best to water plants at ground level, using drip irrigation, soaker hoses or creative solutions like a tomato halo. This device holds three quarts of water, delivering it directly to the root zone of the plant, which encourages deep rooting.

Mulch Soil

It’s important to cover soil beneath tomatoes with a mulch of some kind, such as straw, grass clippings, compost or shredded leaves. Many tomato diseases spend part of their time living in soil. When rain hits the soil, particles splash up and can land on lower tomato leaves, leading to a disease outbreak. Covering soil is one way to help control tomato diseases. Mulch also helps the soil stay moist, which helps ensure a hefty tomato crop. One more great reason to mulch - it suppresses weeds.

Prune Tomatoes

Remove lower leaves on tomato plants to help reduce disease outbreaks. Wait until first tomatoes form, and remove leaves below the first fruit cluster. This helps prevent disease spores (living in soil) from splashing onto lower leaves during rainstorms. Combining a thick mulch with lower leaf pruning are two simple steps that bring big results toward improving your tomato harvest.

Pick Problem Tomatoes

It’s not unusual to visit your tomato patch and discover fruits with all kinds of problems . Heavy rain can cause tomatoes to crack as roots absorb so much water that it literally makes the tomatoes split their skins. This is a big problem with cherry tomatoes especially but it happens with all types. You might also discover tomatoes that critters have been nibbling. Squirrels, birds, deer, even turtles will chomp at ripening tomatoes, seeking moisture. Slugs, earwigs and stink bugs also attack tomatoes and break the skin. Anytime you have a tomato that’s damaged, the best tactic is to remove it from the garden. Bury it in your compost pile, toss it into a far part of your yard, carry it indoors to drop down the disposal — do whatever works for you. But definitely get rid of it. Problem fruits roll out the welcome mat to other pests (fruit flies, wildlife) and diseases. If possible, bury the problem tomatoes to try and contain any pest outbreaks.

Keep Watch for Pests

Try to visit your tomato plants at least every two days to keep tabs on ripening fruit and also inspect for pests. The tomato hornworm is one pest that can literally obliterate plants overnight. These caterpillars munch their way up and down a plant, making leaves disappear like a magician. They can be tough to spot. The easiest sign to watch for is frass (caterpillar poop), which resembles black peppercorns. If you see those, look beneath leaves for a hornworm, which usually hides during the day and feeds at night. Slugs also climb tomato plants to feast on fruits, and stinkbugs can wreak havoc too. With most of these pests, the best defense is to use gloved hands to knock the culprits into soapy water.

As with any plant, we offer the right product solutions for their health care! We have many organic options for you to battle the bugs (and diseases) so you can get back to growing your juicy tomatoes!

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page.

My tomato flowers are dying
I have never watched my tomatoes so much as this year. I have put my plant in a pot. Even put it in the sun room and it has grown beautifully although …

Little eaten spots on tomato
Q. I have a large Brandywine tomato plant. Most of the fruits have big spots in them that look like an animal ate them. Could this be mice, or would it …

Green seeds in my tomatoes
Q. My tomato plant and the fruit look fine. But the seeds are green. What does this mean? A. A tomato seed is green because it contains chlorophyll, …

Why are the tomato fruit small, not deep red in color?
Q. My tomatoes are small, not a deep red, but rather when ripe, the color is more orange. For many years, I lived in southeast Texas. Growing tomatoes …

Hmmm, No Tomatoes . or Are They Just Tiny?
Q. I have 2 "Park's Whoppers" planted in a bucket on my patio. The plants are healthy and have two tomatoes about the size of baseballs (still green). …

Why are my tomatoes developing large white spots? Is it the heat?
Q. Tomatoes have developed large white spots. What could be causing them? A. There are at least 2 possible causes to consider. Stink bugs . …

Why do my ripe tomatoes have yellow color?
Q. All my tomato plants are full of green tomatoes, and the bushes look OK. The fruit doesn't seem to be ripening all the way to red. Instead, the fruit …

My tomatoes are mottled
Q. I am having trouble with my cherry tomatoes. Their exteriors are mottling. Can you help? A. There are at least 3 conditions to check for when your …

Why yellow shoulders & cracked stem end?
Q. It's the summer of 2011, the place central Indiana. I've got 600 plants (12 varieties). The season started too wet, then too dry, then too hot (100 …

Why do the tops of my tomatoes have raised bumps?
Q. My tomatoes have bumps on the top that grow into each other. The bumps even form smiley faces. Some fruit has growths that look like small horns protruding …

My tomatoes are wrinkly, and they aren't getting bigger??
Q. Why are some of my tomatoes turning all wrinkly? They were fine a couple days ago. Also, the are beef tomatoes, but they aren't getting any bigger. …

My tomatoes have hard, whitish core
Q. My tomatoes stay green for a long time and are very hard. When they finally ripen and I cut them open, the core is almost all white with little or no …

Tomato Fruit Drop
Q. I have grown my tomato plants in the greenhouse, planting them during good weather. Then, temperatures dropped to 43 F for more then a month until heating …

What causes cracks in the tops of the tomatoes?
Q. My tomatoes have cracks on the top where the stems are. Does a calcium deficiency cause this problem? A. Tomato cracks (sometimes called “growth …

Why are my romas perfect on the outside, but have a dark rot in the middle?
Q. Why are my Romas perfect on the outside, but when cut into the seed core is black with rot? A. There's at least two possible reasons your tomatoes …

Why is the bottom of my tomato ? Not rated yet
Q. Why is the bottom of my tomato rotting while the fruit is on the vine? Tomato Dirt responds . A. There are several possible scenarios that …

Tomatoes Too Slow In Ripening Not rated yet
Q. My tomato plant looks healthy and strong, but the tomatoes stay green and not turning red. They are in a very sunny spot and are on a drip system. Could …

Why are my tomatoes getting black marks? Not rated yet
Q. Not sure of the tomato variety. I have picked a few tomatoes off the plant earlier and they were fine, but yesterday I went to pick and the tomatoes …

Tumbler tomato fruit splits at the blossom end, a new tomato grows out of the opening Not rated yet
Q. I have a red Tumbler Tomato in a pot by itself. It is located in a small plant shed with a plastic cover. Temperature change during the day is wide …

Only tomato bottoms turn red, tops turn yellowish orange Not rated yet
Q. Only the bottoms of my tomatoes are turning red. The tops turn a yellowish orange. Can you tell me what's happening? A. Your tomatoes are facing …

My tomatoes have white seeds and cracks Not rated yet
Q. I want to know why I have white seeds in my tomatoes this year. Are they safe to eat? The tomatoes also have cracks around the top but I'm not as worried …

Why are my tomatoes starting to ripen with a pinkish-cranberry color instead of the usual orange to red? Not rated yet
Q. We have several tomatoes that are ripening, but they all look pink/cranberry. Typically the varieties we plant turn orange at first, then red. We live …

Why are some (not all) of my tomato forming black ulcers? Not rated yet
Q. I was very successful last year: 210 lbs of bright red, edible fruit in a patch only 5 feet by 14 foot behind my apartment. This year I have staked …

Yellow shoulders: what do I do? Not rated yet
Q. My tomatoes won't ripen up around the shoulder area. I have all that waste when I am canning. What can I do to prevent yellow shoulders or green shoulders …

Why won't my tomatoes ripen on the stem end? Not rated yet
Q. My tomatoes won't ripen on the stem end. Why? A. There's at least two reasons your tomatoes may suffer from yellow shoulders or green shoulders. …

Cracks and mold on the top of my tomatos Not rated yet
A. I'm writing about the tomatoes we grew in a small garden in the Indianapolis, IN area this season. They were "Better Boy" tomatoes. When they first …

Why is my tomato plant not bearing fruit? Not rated yet
Q. I have had a tomato plant for about 6 months, and it's growing so big and green. Currently, it's filled with flowers, but they just dry up and fall …

Mealy tomatoes instead of juicy ones Not rated yet
Q. What makes tomatoes have a mealy texture? A. Often, the first tomatoes of the season or tomatoes grown in containers may have a mealy texture. …

Brown Spots on Brandywine Tomatoes Not rated yet
Q. My Brandywine tomatoes have brown spots which have sink holes in some of them. What can this be? A. There are several possible reasons why your …

Tomato started to rot as it ripened Not rated yet
Q. The first tomato in my crop to ripen was rotted. When I picked it, half was gooey and brown. There were two or three tiny white larvae-looking creatures …

Holes in our tomatoes: what is causing this? Not rated yet
Q. We live in Western Arkansas and are growing a variety of tomatoes. We have noticed that a good portion of the fruit have a hole here or there. We've …

Open split on my tomato Not rated yet
Dear Tomato Dirt, I picked my first red tomato off the vine. It has a split from stem to middle of tomato. The split if about a quarter inch wide …

Blossom ends got soft Not rated yet
Q. Seems like overnight the blossom ends of most tomatoes on one plant got soft, not discolored though. We've been having crazy weather last week was …

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Watch the video: Episode 39: Ratatouille with heirloom tomatoes