A PRACTICAL TREATISE ON THE TOMATO, ITS HISTORY, CHARACTERISTICS, PLANTING, FERTILIZATION, CULTIVATION IN FIELD, GARDEN, AND GREENHOUSE, HARVESTING, PACKING, STORING, MARKETING, INSECT ENEMIES AND DISEASES, WITH METHODS OF CONTROL AND REMEDIES, ETC., ETC.
WILL W. TRACY
Bureau of Plant Industry, United States Department of Agriculture
ORANGE JUDD COMPANY
Dr. F. M. Hexamer
IN HONOR OF HIS LIFELONG EFFORTS FOR THE BETTERMENT OF AMERICAN HORTICULTURAL PRACTICE
Copyright, 1907, by ORANGE JUDD COMPANY All rights reserved
This little book has been written in fulfilment of a promise made many years ago. Again and again I have undertaken the work, only to lay it aside because I felt the need of greater experience and wider knowledge. I do not now feel that this deficiency has been by any means fully supplied, but in some directions it has been removed through the kindness of Dr. F. H. Chittenden of the Bureau of Entomology, who wrote the chapter on insect enemies, and of W. A. Orton of the Bureau of Plant Industry, United States Department of Agriculture, who wrote the chapter on diseases of tomatoes.
I have made free use of, without special credit, and am largely indebted to, the writings of Doctor Sturtevant and Professor Goff, Professor Munson of Maine, Professor Halsted of New Jersey, Professor Corbett of Washington, Professor Rolfs of Florida, Professor Bailey of New York, Professor Green of Ohio, and many others. I have also found a vast amount of valuable information in the agricultural press of this country in general. I am also indebted to L. B. Coulter and Prof. W. G. Johnson for many photographs. My thanks are also due B. F. Williamson, who made the excellent drawings for this book under Professor Johnson's direction.
Tomatoes are among the most generally used and popular vegetables. They are grown not only in gardens, but in large areas in every state from Maine to California and Washington to Florida, and under very different conditions of climate, soil and cultural facilities, as well as of requirements as to character of fruit. The methods which will give the best results under one set of conditions are entirely unsuited to others.
I have tried to give the nature and requirements of the plant and the effect of conditions as seen in my own experience, a knowledge of which may enable the reader to follow the methods most suited to his own conditions and requirements, rather than to recommend the exact methods which have given me the best results.
WILL W. TRACY.
Washington, April, 1907.
BOTANY OF THE TOMATO 1
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PLANT 20
ESSENTIALS FOR DEVELOPMENT 28
SELECTION OF SOIL FOR MAXIMUM CROP 33
EXPOSURE AND LOCATION 38
PREPARATION OF THE SOIL 46
HOTBEDS AND COLD-FRAMES 51
STARTING PLANTS 59
PROPER DISTANCE FOR PLANTING 68
STAKING, TRAINING AND PRUNING 79
RIPENING, GATHERING, HANDLING AND MARKETING 90 THE FRUIT
ADAPTATION OF VARIETIES 97
SEED BREEDING AND GROWING 112
PRODUCTION FOR CANNING 117
COST OF PRODUCTION 121
INSECTS INJURIOUS TO THE TOMATO 123
TOMATO DISEASES 131
1. Where new varieties of tomatoes are developed and tested Frontispiece
2. Tomato flowers 2
3. Two-celled tomato 3
4. Three-celled tomato 3
5. Currant tomato and characteristic clusters 5
6. Red cherry tomato 6
7. Pear-shaped tomato 8
8. Yellow plum tomato 9
9. One of the first illustrations of the tomato 11
10. An early illustration of the tomato 12
11. Typical bunch of modern tomatoes 27
12. Tomatoes trained to stakes in the South 35
13. Three-sash hotbed 52
14. Cross-section of hotbed 53
15. Cold-frames on hill-side 54
16. Transplanting tomatoes under cloth-covered frames 56
17. Spotting-board for use in cold-frames 61
18. Spotting-board for use on flat 62
19. Tomatoes sown and allowed to grow in hotbeds 69
20. Planting tomatoes on a Delaware farm 75
21. Training tomatoes in Florida to single stake 81
22. Tomato plant trained to single stake 82
23. Method of training to three stems in forcing-house and out of doors 83
24. Training on line in greenhouse 84
25. Ready to transplant in greenhouse 85
26. Training young tomatoes in greenhouse at New York experiment station 86
27. Tomatoes in greenhouse at the Ohio experiment station 87
28. Forcing tomatoes in greenhouse at New Hampshire experiment station 88
29. Florida tomatoes properly wrapped for long shipment 93
30. Greenhouse tomatoes packed for market 95
31. Buckeye State, showing long nodes and distance between fruit clusters 98
32. Stone, and characteristic foliage 99
33. Atlantic Prize, and its normal foliage 101
34. Dwarf Champion 103
35. A cutworm and parent moth 124
36. Flea-beetle 125
37. Margined blister beetle 125
38. Tomato worm 126
39. Tomato stalk-borer 127
40. Characteristic work of the tomato fruit worm 128
41. Adult moth, or parent of tomato fruit worm 129
42. Proper way to make Bordeaux 137
43. Point-rot disease of the tomato 140
Botany of the Tomato
The common tomato of our gardens belongs to the natural order Solanaceae and the genus Lycopersicum. The name from lykos, a wolf, and persica, a peach, is given it because of the supposed aphrodisiacal qualities, and the beauty of the fruit. The genus comprises a few species of South American annual or short-lived perennial, herbaceous, rank-smelling plants in which the many branches are spreading, procumbent, or feebly ascendent and commonly 2 to 6 feet in length, though under some conditions, particularly in the South and in California, they grow much longer. They are covered with resinous viscid secretions and are round, soft, brittle and hairy, when young, but become furrowed, angular, hard and almost woody with enlarged joints, when old. The leaves are irregularly alternate, 5 to 15 inches long, petioled, odd pinnate, with seven to nine short-stemmed leaflets, often with much smaller and stemless ones between them. The larger leaflets are sometimes entire, but more generally notched, cut, or even divided, particularly at the base.
The flowers are pendant and borne in more or less branched clusters, located on the stem on the opposite side and usually a little below the leaves; the first cluster on the sixth to twelfth internode from the ground, with one on each second to sixth succeeding one. The flowers (Fig. 2) are small, consisting of a yellow, deeply five-cleft, wheel-shaped corolla, with a very short tube and broadly lanceolate, recurving petals. The calyx consists of five long linear or lanceolate sepals, which are shorter than the petals at first, but are persistent, and increase in size as the fruits mature. The stamens, five in number, are borne on the throat of the corolla, and consist of long, large anthers, borne on short filaments, loosely joined into a tube and opening by a longitudinal slit on the inside, and this is the chief botanical distinction between this genus and Solanum to which the potato, pepper, night shade and tobacco belong. The anthers in the latter genus open at the tip only. The two genera, however, are closely related and plants belonging to them are readily united by grafting. The Physalis, Husk tomato or Ground cherry is quite distinct, botanically. The pistils of the true tomato are short at first, but the style elongates so as to push the capitate stigma through the tube formed by the anthers, this usually occurring before the anthers open for the discharge of the pollen. The fruit is a two to many-celled berry with central fleshy placenta and many small kidney-shaped seeds which are densely covered with short, stiff hairs, as seen in Figs. 3 and 4.
It is comparatively easy to define the genus with which the tomato should be classed botanically, but it is by no means so easy to classify our cultivated varieties into botanical species. We have in cultivation varieties which are known to have originated in gardens and from the same parentage, but which differ from each other so much in habit of growth, character of leaf and fruit and other respects, that if they had been found growing wild they would unhesitatingly be pronounced different species, and botanists are not agreed as to how our many and very different garden varieties should be classified botanically. Some contend that all of our cultivated sorts are varieties of but two distinct species, while others think they have originated from several.
Classification.—The author suggests the following classification, differing somewhat from that sometimes given, as he believes that the large, deep-sutured fruit of our cultivated varieties and the distinct pear-shaped sorts come from original species rather than from variations of Lycopersicum cerasiforme:
Currant tomato, Grape tomato, German or Raisin tomato (Lycopersicum pimpinellifolium, L. racemiforme) (Fig. 5).—Universally regarded as a distinct species. Plant strong, growing with many long, slender, weak branches which are not so hairy, viscid, or ill-smelling, and never become so hard or woody as those of the other species. The numerous leaves are very bright green in color, leaflets small, nearly entire, with many small stemless ones between the others. Fruit produced continuously and in great quantity on long racemes like those of the currant, though they are often branched. They continue to elongate and blossom until the fruit at the upper end is fully ripened. Fruit small, less than 1/2 inch in diameter, spherical, smooth and of a particularly bright, beautiful red color which contrasts well with the bright green leaves, and this abundance of beautifully colored and gracefully poised fruit makes the plant worthy of more general cultivation as an ornament, though the fruit is of little value for culinary use. This species, when pure, has not varied under cultivation, but it readily crosses with other species and with our garden varieties, and many of these owe their bright red color to the influence of crosses with the above species.
Cherry tomato (L. cerasiforme) (Fig. 6).—Plant vigorous, with stout branches which are distinctly trailing in habit. Leaves flat or but slightly curled. Fruit very abundant, borne in short, branched clusters, globular, perfectly smooth, with no apparent sutures. From 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter and either red or yellow in color, two-celled with numerous comparatively small, kidney-shaped seeds. Many of our garden varieties show evidence of crosses with this species, and by many it is regarded as the original wild form of all of our cultivated sorts. These, when they escape from cultivation and become wild plants, as they often do, from New Jersey southward, produce fruit which, in many respects, resembles that of this species in size and form; but they are generally more flattened, globe-shaped, with more or less distinct sutures on the upper side, and I have never seen any fruit of these wild plants which could not be readily distinguished from that of the true Cherry tomato.
Prof. P. H. Rolfs, Director of the Florida experiment station, reports that among the millions of volunteer, or wild, tomatoes he has seen growing in the abandoned tomato fields in Florida, he has never seen a plant with fruit which could not be easily distinguished from that of the true Cherry tomato. Again, one can, by selection and cultivation, easily develop from these wild forms plants producing fruit as large and often practically identical with that of our cultivated varieties, while I have given a true stock of Cherry tomato most careful cultivation on the best of soil for 20 consecutive generations without any increase in size or change in character of the fruit.
Pear (not Plum) tomato (L. pyriforme) (Fig. 7).—Plant exceptionally vigorous, with comparatively few long, stout stems inclined to ascend. Leaves numerous, broad, flat, with a distinct bluish-green color noticeable, even in the cotyledons. Fruit abundant, borne in short branched or straight clusters of five to ten fruits. It is perfectly smooth, without sutures, and of the shape of a long, slender-necked pear, not over an inch in transverse by 1-1/2 inches in longitudinal diameter. When the stock is pure the fruit retains this form very persistently. The production of egg-shaped or other forms is a sure indication of impure stock. They are bright red, dark yellow, or light yellowish white in color, two-celled, with very distinct central placenta and comparatively few and large seeds. The fruit is inclined to ripen unevenly, the neck remaining green when the rest of the fruit is quite ripe. It is less juicy than that of most of our garden sorts but of a mild and pleasant flavor. This is considered, by many, to be simply a garden variety, but I am inclined to the belief that it is a distinct species and that the contrary view comes from the study of the impure and crossed stocks resulting from crosses between the true Pear tomato and garden sorts which are frequently sold by seedsmen as pear-shaped. Many garden sorts—like the Plum (Fig. 8), the Egg, the Golden Nugget, Vick's Criterion, etc.—are known to have originated from crosses of the Pear and I think that most, if not all, the garden sorts in which the longitudinal diameter of the fruit is greater than its transverse diameter owe this form to crosses with L. pyriforme.
Cultivated varieties (L. esculentum).—This is commonly used as the botanical name of our cultivated varieties, rather than as the name of a distinct species. In western South America, however, there is found growing a wild plant of Lycopersicum which differs from the other recognized species in being more compact in growth, with fewer branches and larger leaves, and carrying an immense burden of fruit borne in large clusters. The fruit is larger than that of the other species but much smaller than that of our cultivated sorts; is very irregular in shape, always with distinct sutures, and often deeply corrugated and bright red in color. The walls are thin; the flesh is soft, with a distinct sharp, acid flavor much less agreeable than that of our cultivated forms of garden tomatoes.
This has commonly been regarded by botanists as a degenerate form of our garden tomatoes, rather than as an original species, but I find that, like L. cerasiforme and L. pyriforme, it is quite fixed under cultivation, except as crossed with other species or with our garden varieties, and I believe it to be the original species from which our cultured sorts have been developed, by crossing and selection. Such crosses probably were made either naturally or by natives before the tomato was discovered by Europeans. The earliest prints we have of the tomato (Figs. 9 and 10) are far more like the fruit of this plant than that of L. cerasiforme, and the prints of many of the earliest garden varieties and of some sorts which are still cultivated in southern Europe, for use in soups, are like it not only in size and form, but in flavor. These facts make it seem far more probable that our cultivated sorts have come, by crossing, between this and other species rather than by simple development from L. cerasiforme.
Prof. E. S. Goff, of Wisconsin, who has made a most careful study of the tomato, expressed the same opinion, writing that it seemed to him that our cultivated sorts must have come from the crossing of a small, round, smooth, sutureless type, with a larger, deep-sutured, corrugated fruit, like that of the Mammoth Chihuahua, but smaller. However this may be, I think that it is wise to throw all of our cultivated garden sorts, except the Pear, the Cherry, and the Grape—which I regard as distinct species—together under the name of L. esculentum, even when we know they have originated by direct crosses with the other species; and it is well to classify the upright growing sorts under the varietal names, L. validum, and the larger, heavier sorts, as L. grandifolium, as has been done by Bailey. (Cyclopedia of Horticulture.)
The garden vegetable known in this country as tomato and generally as tomate in continental Europe, is also known as Wolf-peach and Love Apple in England and America, and Liebesapfel in Germany, Pomme d'Amour in France, Pomo d'oro in Italy, Pomidor in Poland.
Origin of name.—The name tomato is of South American origin, and is derived from the Aztec word xitomate, or zitotomate, which is given the fruit of both the Common tomato and that of the Husk or Strawberry tomato or Physalis. Both vegetables were highly prized and extensively cultivated by the natives long before the discovery of the country by Europeans, and there is little doubt that many of the plants first seen and described by Europeans as wild species were really garden varieties originated with the native Americans by the variation or crossing of the original wild species.
Different types now common, according to Sturtevant, have become known to, and been described by Europeans in about the following order:
1. Large yellow, described by Matthiolus in 1554 and called Golden apple.
2. Large red, described by Matthiolus in 1554 and called Love apple.
3. Purple red, described by D'el Obel in 1570.
4. White-fleshed, described by Dodoens in 1586.
5. Red cherry, described by Bauhin in 1620.
6. Yellow cherry, described by Bauhin in 1620.
7. Ochre yellow, described by Bauhin in 1651.
8. Striped, blotched or visi-colored, described by Bauhin in 1651.
9. Pale red, described by Tournefort in 1700.
10. Large smooth, or ribless red, described by Tournefort in 1700.
11. Bronzed-leaved, described by Blacknell in 1750.
12. Deep orange, described by Bryant in 1783.
13. Pear-shaped, described by Dunal in 1805.
14. Tree tomato, described by Vilmorin in 1855.
15. Broad-leaved, introduced about 1860.
The special description of No. 10 by Tournefort in 1700 would indicate that large smooth sorts, like Livingston's Stone, were in existence fully 200 years ago, instead of being modern improvements, as is sometimes claimed; and a careful study of old descriptions and cuts and comparing them with the best examples of modern varieties led Doctor Sturtevant in 1889 to express the opinion that they had fruit as large and smooth as those we now grow, before the tomato came into general use in America, and possibly before the fruit was generally known to Europeans. Even the production of fine fruit under glass is not so modern as many suppose. In transactions of the London Horticultural Society for 1820, John Wilmot is reported to have cultivated under glass in 1818 some 600 plants and gathered from his entire plantings under glass and in borders some 130 bushels of ripe fruit. It is stated that the growth that year exceeded the demand, and that the fruit obtained was of extraordinary size, some exceeding 12 inches in circumference and weighing 12 ounces each. Thomas Meehan states in Gardeners' Monthly for February, 1880, that on January 8, of that year, he saw growing in the greenhouses on Senator Cannon's place near Harrisburg, Pa., at least 1 bushel of ripe fruits, none of which were less than 10 inches in circumference,—a showing which compares with the best to be seen to-day.
Throughout southern Europe the value of the fruit for use in soups and as a salad seems to have been at once recognized, and it came into quite general use, especially in Spain and Italy, during the 17th century; but in northern Europe and England, though the plant was grown in botanical gardens and in a few private places as a curiosity and for the beauty of its fruit, this was seldom eaten, being commonly regarded as unhealthy and even poisonous, and on this account, and probably because of its supposed aphrodisiacal qualities, it did not come into general use in those northern countries until early in the 19th century.
First mention in America, I find of its being grown for culinary use, was in Virginia in 1781. In 1788 a Frenchman in Philadelphia made most earnest efforts to get people to use the fruit, but with little success, and similar efforts by an Italian in Salem, Mass., in 1802, were no more successful. The first record I can find of the fruit being regularly quoted in the market was in New Orleans in 1812, and the earliest records I have been able to find of the seed being offered by seedsmen, as that of an edible vegetable, was by Gardener and Hipburn in 1818, and by Landreth in 1820. Buist's "Kitchen Gardener" says: "In 1828-9 it (the tomato) was almost detested and commonly considered poisonous. Ten years later every variety of pill and panacea was 'extract of tomatoes,' and now (1847) almost as much ground is devoted to its culture as to the cabbage." In 1834 Professor Dunglison, of the University of Virginia, said: "The tomato may be looked upon as one of the most wholesome and valuable esculents of the garden."
Yet, though the fruit has always received similar commendation from medical men, there has been constant recurring superstition that it is unhealthy. Only a few years ago there was in general circulation a statement that an eminent physician had discovered that eating tomatoes tended to develop cancer. This has been definitely traced to the playful question, asked as a joke by Dr. Dio Lewis, "Didn't you know that eating bright red tomatoes caused cancer?" In more recent years an equally unfounded claim has been made that tomato seeds were responsible for many cases of appendicitis and that it was consequently dangerous to eat the fruit.
I give some quotations for tomatoes in Quincy Hall Market, Boston, with some for other vegetables, for comparison. The records show that during the week ending July 22, 1835, tomatoes were quoted at 50 cents per dozen, cabbage at 50 cents per dozen. For the week ending September 22, 1835, tomatoes were quoted at 25 cents per peck, lima beans, 12-1/2 cents per quart shelled, with comment that tomatoes are in much demand and a far greater quantity has been sold than in previous years. During the week ending July 22, 1837, tomatoes were quoted at 25 and 50 cents per peck, and the note that they are of good size and were well ripened and came from gardens in the vicinity would indicate that they had at that time early maturing varieties and knew how to grow them. From about 1835 till the present time the cultivation and use of tomatoes have constantly increased both in this country and in Europe, so that now they are one of the most largely grown of our garden vegetables.
A suggestion as to the extent they are now grown in America is the fact that a single seed grower saved in 1903 over 20,000 pounds of tomato seed—an amount sufficient to furnish plants for from 80,000 to 320,000 acres, according to the care used in raising them, the larger quantity not requiring more care than the best growers commonly use. A careful estimate made by the American Grocer shows that in 1903 the packing of tomatoes by canners in the United States amounted to 246,775,426 three-pound cans. In addition to the canned tomato, between 200,000 and 250,000 barrels of catsup stock is put up annually, requiring the product of at least 20,000 acres.
It is probable that the area required to produce the fruit that is used fresh at least equals that devoted to the production for preserving, which give us from 400,000 to 500,000 acres devoted to this crop each year in America alone. The fruit is perhaps in more general use in America than elsewhere, but its cultivation and use have increased rapidly in other countries, particularly with the English speaking races. Large quantities are grown in Australia, and immense and constantly increasing quantities are grown under glass in England and adjacent islands, while The Gardeners' Chronicle states that in 1903 between 600,000 and 800,000 pounds of fresh fruit were imported into England from other countries.
General Characteristics of the Plant
In the native home of the tomato, in South America, the conditions of the soil, both as regards composition and mechanical condition, of the moisture both in soil and air, and those of temperature and sunlight, are throughout the growing season not only very favorable for rapid growth, but are uniformly and constantly so. Under such conditions there has been developed a plant which, while vigorous, tenacious of life, capable of rapid growth and enormously productive, is not at all hardy in the sense of ability to endure untoward conditions either in the character of soil, of water supply, or of temperature. A check in the development because of any unfavorable condition is never fully recovered from, but will inevitably affect the total quantity and quality of the fruit produced, even if subsequent favorable conditions result in the rapid and vigorous growth of the plant.
I know of an instance where two adjoining fields belonging to A and B were set with tomatoes, using plants started in the same hotbed from the same lot of seed. The soil was of equal natural fertility and each field received about the same quantity of manure, though that given A's was all well decomposed and worked into the soil, while that given B's was fresh and raw and simply plowed in. A's field was put into the best possible tilth before setting the plants, and the management of the plants and their cultivation were such as to secure unchecked growth from the time they were pricked out into cold-frames and set in the field until the crop was matured. As long as the plants would permit, the soil was cultivated every few days and kept in a state of perfect tilth.
B's field when the plants were set out was a mass of clods, as it had been plowed, when wet, some time before and never harrowed but once. The plants had been crowded forward as rapidly as possible in the cold-frame, and when set in the field were much higher than A's, but so soft that they were badly checked in transplanting and a great many of them died and had to be reset. The field received but one or two cultivations during the entire season. The growth of the plants in B's field was irregular and uneven instead of steady and uniform as in A's, and though some of the fruits were quite as large, they were not as uniform as A's while the yield per acre was not more than half as much nor the fruit of as good general quality. B had difficulty in disposing of his crop and often had to sell below the market, while A had no trouble in disposing of his at the highest prices for the day. B's crop was a financial loss, while A's returned a most satisfactory profit.
The key to the most successful culture of the tomato is the securing, from the start to finish, of an unchecked uniform growth, though it need not necessarily be a rapid one. The failure to do this is, in my opinion, the principal reason for the comparatively small yield usually obtained, which is very much less than it would be with better cultural management. The tomato under conditions which I have repeatedly found it practicable to secure, not only in small plantings but in large fields, has proved capable of producing from 1,000 to 1,200 or even more bushels to the acre, and the possible yield per plant is enormous.
As early as 1818 the Royal Horticultural Society of London reports the obtaining of over 40 pounds of fruit of marketable character from a single vine. An acre of such plants would give a yield of over 1,800 bushels of fruit, and many similar yields, and even greater ones, have been recorded for single plants. The yield commonly obtained, even in favorable locations, and by men who have grown tomatoes all their lives, is more often less than 200 bushels to the acre than more. The way to secure a better yield is to study carefully the nature and requirements of the plants and the adaptation of our cultural practice to them.
Life habit of the plant.—The tomato could be described as a short-lived perennial, but its span of life is somewhat variable. Under favorable conditions it will develop from starting seed to first ripe fruit in from 85 to 120 days of full sunshine with a constant day temperature of from 75 to 90 deg. F., and with one from 15 to 20 deg. F. lower at night. The plants will ordinarily continue in full fruit for about 50 to 60 days, after which they generally become so exhausted by excessive production of fruit and the effects of diseases to which they are usually subject that their root action and sap circulation become weaker and weaker until they die from starvation. From Philadelphia southward gardeners expect that spring set plants will thus exhaust themselves and die by late summer, and they sow seed in late spring or early summer for plants on which they depend for late summer and fall crops.
Under some conditions, particularly in the Gulf states and in California, tomato plants will not only grow to a much greater size than normal, but will continue to thrive and bear fruit for a longer time. Such a plant grown in Pasadena, Cal., was said to have been in constant bearing for over 10 months. Again, sometimes plants that have produced a full crop of fruits will start new sets of roots and leaves and produce a second and even a third crop, each, however, being produced on new branches and as a result of a fresh set of roots, those which produced the preceding crop having died and disappeared. The period of development, 85 to 120 days of full sunshine at a temperature above 75 deg. F., has been given. The full sunshine and high temperature are essential to such rapid development, and in so far as there is a lack of sunshine from clouds or shade, or the day temperature falls below 75 deg. F. the period will be lengthened, so that in the greater part of the United States the elapsed time between starting seed to ripened fruit is usually as much as from 120 to 150 days and often even longer.
Characteristics of the root.—The roots of the tomato plant, while abundant in number, are short and can only gather food and water from a limited area. A plant of garden bean, for instance, is not more than half the size of one of the tomato, but its roots extend through the soil to a greater distance, gather plant food from a greater bulk of soil, seem better able to search out and gather the particular food element which the plant needs than do those of the tomato. This characteristic of the latter plant makes the composition of the soil as to the proportion of easily available food elements of great importance. Tomato roots are also exceedingly tender and incapable of penetrating a hard and compact soil, so that the condition of the soil as to tilth is of greater importance with regard to tomatoes than with most garden vegetables.
Another characteristic of the tomato roots is that the period of their active life is short. When young they are capable of transmitting water and nutritive material very rapidly, but they soon become clogged and inefficient to such an extent as to result in the starvation and death of the plant. If the branches of such an exhausted plant be bent over and covered with earth they will frequently start new roots and produce a fresh crop of fruit, or if plants which have made a crop in the greenhouse be transplanted to the garden and cut back, a new set of roots will often develop and the plant will produce a second crop of fruit which, in amount, often equals or exceeds the first one. But such growths come only from new roots springing from the stem—never from an extension of the old root system.
Characteristics of the stem and leaves.—The growth of the stem, and leaves of the young tomato plant is very rapid and, the cellular structure coarse, loose and open. A young branch is easily broken and when this is done it shows scarcely any fibrous structure—simply a mass of coarse cellular matter which while capable, when young, of transmitting nutritive matter rapidly, soon becomes dogged and inert. This structure not only makes the active life of the leaves short, like that of the roots, but necessitates a fresh growth in order to continue the fruitfulness of the plant and renders the leaves very susceptible to injury from bacterial and fungous diseases. The rapid growth also necessitates an abundance of sunlight.
Characteristics of the blossom.—The inflorescence of the tomato is usually abundant and it is rare that a plant does not produce sufficient blooms for a full crop. The flowers are perfect as far as parts are concerned (Fig. 2) and in bright, sunny weather there is an abundance of pollen, but sunlight and warmth are essential to its maturing into a condition in which it can easily reach the stigma. The structure and development of the flower are such that while occasionally, particularly in healthy plants out of doors, the stigma becomes receptive and takes the pollen as it is pushed out through the stamen tube by the elongating style, it is more often pushed beyond them before the pollen matures, so that the pollen has to reach the stigma through some other means. Usually this is accomplished by the wind, either directly or through the motion of the plants.
Under glass it is generally necessary to assist the fertilization either directly by application or by motion of the plant, this latter only being effective in the middle of a bright sunny day. In the open ground in cold, damp weather the flowers often fail of fertilization, in which case they drop, and this is often the first indication of a failing of the crop on large, strong vines. I have known of many cases where the yield of fruit from large and seemingly very healthy vines was very light because continual rains prevented the pollenization of the flowers. Such failures, however, do not always come from a want of pollen but may result from an over or irregular supply of water either at the root or in the air, imperfectly balanced food supply, a sapping of the vitality of the plants when young, or from other causes. Insects rarely visit tomato flowers and are seldom the means of their fertilization.
Characteristics of the fruit.—The fruit of the original species from which our cultivated tomatoes have developed was doubtless a comparatively small two to many-celled berry, with comparatively dry central placenta and thin walls. In some species the cells were indicated by distinct sutures, forming a rough or corrugated fruit. It has improved under cultivation by increase in size, the material thickening of the cell walls, the development of greater juiciness and richer flavor and a decrease in the size and dryness of the placenta, as well as the breaking up of the cells by fleshy partitions resulting in the disappearance of the deep sutures and an improvement in the smoothness and beauty of the fruit. (Fig. 11.)
The quality of the fruit is largely dependent upon varietal differences, to be spoken of later, but it is also influenced by conditions of growth—such as the proportion of the nutritive elements found in the soil, the proper supply of moisture, the degree and uniformity of temperature and, most of all, the amount of sunlight. Sudden changes of temperature and moisture often result in cracks and fissures in the skin and flesh, which not only injure the appearance but affect the flavor of the fruit.
Essentials for Development
Sunlight.—Abundant and unobstructed sunlight is the most essential condition for the healthy growth of the tomato. It is a native of the sunny South and will not thrive except in full and abundant sunlight. I have never been able to grow good tomatoes in the shade even where it is only partial. The entire plant needs the sunlight. The blossoms often fail to set and the fruit is lacking in flavor because of shade, from excessive leaf growth, or other obstruction.
The great difficulty in winter forcing tomatoes under glass in the North comes from the want of sunlight during the short days of the winter months. Were it not for the short winter days of the higher latitudes limiting the hours of sunshine, tomatoes could be grown under glass in the northern states to compete in price, when the better quality of vine-ripened fruits is considered, with those from the Gulf states. Growers are learning that tomatoes can be profitably grown under glass during the longer spring days, and consumers are beginning to appreciate the superior quality of fruit ripened on the vine over that picked green and ripened in transit. At no time is this need of abundance of light of greater importance than when the plants are young and, if they fail to receive it, no subsequent favorable conditions will enable them to recover fully from its ill effects. It is not so much the want of room for the roots as of light for the leaves that makes the plants which have been crowded in the seed-beds so weak and unprofitable.
I once divided 100 young tomato plants, about 2 inches high, into four lots of 25 each, numbering them 1, 2, 3 and 4. The plants of lots No. 1 and 2 were set equal distance apart in box A, and those of lots No. 3 and 4 in the same way in box B; both boxes being about 16 inches wide, 40 inches long and 4 inches deep. The two boxes were set together across the side bench of a greenhouse with the outer edge against a board wall some 2-1/2 feet high, so that the plants at the end of the box near the wall received much less light than those at the other end. They remained there about five weeks and then were taken out and the plants set in the open ground. During the five weeks box A, containing lots No. 1 and 2, was changed, end for end, every day so that those two lots of plants received nearly an equal amount of sunlight, but box B was not changed so that lot No. 3, at one end of the box, was constantly near the walk and in the full light, while lot No. 4, at the other end of the box, was constantly near the wall and in partial shade. The effect on the growth of the plants was very marked. The plants of lot No. 4 were nearly twice as high, but with much softer stems and leaves than those of lot No. 3. The plants received equal care when set side by side in the open ground and at the time the first fruit was gathered seemed of equal size and vigor, but the total yield of fruit of lots No. 1, 2 and 3 was very nearly the same and in each case at the rate of over 100 bushels an acre more than that from lot No. 4. This is but one of the scores of experiences which have led me to appreciate, in some degree, the necessity of plenty of sunlight for the best development of the tomato.
Heat.—The plant thrives best out of doors in a dry temperature of 75 to 85 deg. F., or even up to 95 deg. F., if the air is not too dry and is in gentle circulation. The rate of growth diminishes as the temperature falls below 75 deg. until at 50 deg. there is practically no growth; the plant is simply living at a poor dying rate and if the growth, particularly in young plants, is checked in this way for any considerable time they will never produce a full crop of fruit, even if the plants reach full size and are seemingly vigorous and healthy. The plant is generally killed by exposure for even a short time to freezing temperature, though young volunteer plants in the spring are frequently so hardened by exposure that they will survive a frost that crusts the ground they stand in; but such exposure affects the productiveness of the plant, even if it subsequently makes a seemingly vigorous and healthy growth. Under glass, plants usually do best in a temperature somewhat lower than is most desirable out of doors. I think this is due to the inevitable obstruction of the sunlight and the lack of perfect ventilation.
Moisture.—Although the tomato is not a desert plant and needs a plentiful supply of water, it suffers far more frequently, particularly when the plants are young, from an over-supply than from the want of water. Good drainage at the root and warm, dry, sunny air, in gentle motion, are what it delights in. Good drainage is essential not only to the best growth of the plant but to the production of any fruit of good quality. So important is this feature that though it can be readily proved that, other things being equal, the tomato will give larger yield and better fruit on well drained clay loam than on sandy soil, yet it is more generally and more successfully planted on sandy lands simply because they are usually better drained and on this account give better crops. While excess of water in the soil is most injurious to the young and growing plant, an abundance of it at the time the fruit swells and ripens is very essential, and a want of it at that time results in small and imperfect fruit of poor flavor. Excessive moisture in the air is just as injurious as at the root. In my personal experience I have known of more failures in tomato crops, at least in the northern states, to come from a season of persistent rains and damp atmosphere at the time when the plants should be in bloom and setting fruit than from any other climatic cause.
Food supply.—The tomato is not a gross feeder nor is the crop an exhaustive one, but the plant is very particular as to its food supply. It is an epicure among plants and demands that its food shall not only be to its taste in quality but that it be well served. In order for the plant to do its best, or even well, it is essential that the food elements be in the right proportions and readily available. If there is a deficiency of any single element there will be but a meager crop of fruit, no matter how abundant the supply of the others. An over-supply of an element, especially nitrogen, is hardly less injurious and will actually lessen the yield of fruit though it may increase the size of the vine. Not only must the food be in right proportions but in such condition as to be readily available. Tomato roots have little power to wrest plant food from the soil. The use of coarse, unfermented manure is even more unsatisfactory with this than with other crops. The enormous yields sometimes obtained by English gardeners from plants grown under glass result from a supply of food of the right proportions and in solution, instead of incorporating it in a crude condition with the soil.
Cultivation.—The tomato is grown in all parts of the United States and under very different conditions, not only as to climate and soil but as to the facilities for growing and handling the crop and the way in which it is done. What would be ideal conditions of soil and the most advantageous methods under some conditions would not be at all desirable in others. In some cases the largest possible yield an acre, in others fruit at the lowest cost a bushel, or at the earliest possible date, or in a continuous supply and of the best quality, is the greatest desideratum. It is impossible to give specific instructions which would be applicable to all these varying conditions and requirements; so I give general cultural directions for maximum crops with variations suggested for special conditions and requirements, and then the reader may follow those which seem best suited to his individual conditions.
Selection of Soil for Maximum Crop
Large yields of tomatoes have been, and can be, obtained from soils of varying composition, from a gumbo prairie, a black marsh muck, or a stiff, tenacious clay, to one of light drifting sand, provided other conditions, such as drainage, tilth and fertility are favorable. The Connecticut experiment station and others have secured good results from plants grown under glass in a soil of sifted coal ashes and muck, or even from coal ashes alone, the requisite plant food being supplied in solution. But a maximum crop could never, and a full one very seldom, be produced on a soil, no matter what its composition, which could not be, or was not put into and kept in a good state of tilth, or on one which was poorly drained, sodden or sour, or which was so leachy that it was impossible to retain a fair supply of moisture and of plant food.
Of the 10 largest yields of which I have personal knowledge and which ran from 1,000 to 1,200 bushels of fruit (acceptable for canning and at least two-thirds of it of prime market quality) an acre, four were grown on soils classed as clay loam, two on heavy clay—one of which was so heavy that clay for making brick was subsequently taken from the very spot which yielded the most and best fruit—one on what had been a black ash swamp, one on a sandy muck, two on a sandy loam and one on a light sand made very rich by heavy, annual manuring for several years. They were all perfectly watered and drained, in good heart, liberally fertilized with manures of proved right proportions for each field, and above all, the fields were put into and kept in perfect tilth by methods suited to each case; while the plants used were of good stock and so grown, set and cultivated that their growth was never stopped or hardly checked for even a day. These conditions as to soil and culture, together with seasons of exceptionally favorable weather, resulted in uniformly large crops on these widely different soils.
The composition of the soil, then, as to its proportions of sand or clay is of minor importance as regards a maximum yield or as to quality of the fruit, except as it affects our ability to put and keep the soil in good physical condition. The tomato crop, however, particularly when the plants are trimmed and trained to stakes, as is the usual practice in the South, as seen in Fig. 12, with crops grown for early shipment, necessitates in the trimming and training of the plants and the gathering of the fruit when it is in the right degree of maturity for shipment a great deal of trampling of the surface regardless of whether it is wet or dry. Consequently if the surface soil has any considerable proportion of clay there is danger of compacting and even puddling it by working when wet, to the great detriment of the crop. Again, a more or less sandy surface soil can be much more easily worked than one with a large proportion of clay. For these reasons our choice of a soil for the lowest cost a bushel and probably for a maximum yield should be a rich sandy or sandy loam surface soil overlying a well-drained clay sub-soil. I would prefer one which was originally covered with a heavy growth of beech and maple timber, though I should want it to be "old land" at the time. Tomatoes do not succeed as well on prairie soils, particularly if they are at all heavy, as they do on timbered lands, but one need not despair of a profitable crop of tomatoes on any soil which would give a fair crop of corn or of cotton.
For early-ripening fruit.—Sometimes the profit and satisfaction from a tomato crop depend more largely upon the earliness of ripening than upon the amount of yield or cost of growing. In such cases a warm, sandy loam, or even a distinctly sandy soil, is to be preferred, as this is apt to be warmer and the fruit will be matured much earlier on it than on a heavier soil. It is essential, however, that it be well drained and warm. Often lands classed as sandy are really colder than some of those classed as clay, and such soils should be carefully avoided if early maturity is important.
For the home garden.—Here we seldom have a choice, but no one need despair and abandon effort, no matter what the soil may be, for it is quite possible to raise an abundant home supply on any soil and that, too, without inordinate cost and labor. Some of the most prolific plants and the finest fruits I have ever seen were grown in a village lot which five years before had been filled in to a depth of 3 to 10 feet with clay, coal ashes and refuse from a brick and coal yard. In another instance magnificent fruit was grown in a garden where the soil was originally made up chiefly of sawdust mixed with sand, drawn on a foundation of sawmill edgings so as to raise it above the water of a swamp. Where one has to contend with such conditions he should make an effort to create a friable soil with a supply of humus by adding the material needed. A very few loads, sometimes even a single load, of clay or sand will greatly change the character of the soil of a sufficient area to grow the one or two dozen plants necessary for a family supply. In the two cases mentioned, the owner of the first named garden used both sand and sawdust to lighten his soil, while the second drew a great many loads of clay on his.
Growing under glass.—I would make up a soil composed of about three parts rotted sod, two or three parts of well-rotted stable manure (and it is very important that it be well decomposed) and one part either of coarse, sharp sand, sandy loam or clay loam, according as the sod soil is light or heavy, the aim being to form a rich, light, open soil rather than one which is as heavy and compact as desirable for some plants. If sod soil is not available, of course, garden loam can be substituted, but it is very important that the soil be thoroughly mixed, and desirable that it be prepared sometime before it is to be used. Some growers use the same soil for several crops, simply adding some fresh manure; but, if so used, it is important that it be stirred and thoroughly re-mixed and sterilized.
Exposure and Location
In sections where there is danger of the plants being killed by early fall frosts before they have ripened their entire crop, exposure of the field is sometimes of importance in determining the marketable yield.
A gentle inclination to the south, with a protection of higher land or timber on the sides from which frost or high winds are most likely to come, is the best. A steep descent to the south, shut in by high land to the east and west, so as to form a hot pocket, is not favorable for a maximum crop although it may give a smaller yield of early ripening fruit; nor is a small field entirely surrounded by forest desirable.
I once knew of a field, of about two acres, sloping to the south and entirely surrounded by heavy timber, on which two or three tomato crops were failures when other fields on the same farm gave large yields, but after the timber on the south and east had been cut away this field generally gave the largest yield in the neighborhood.
Location.—While exposure is in some cases an important factor in determining the total yield an acre, and so the cost, the location of the field as regards distance from marketing point and the character of the roads between them is of far greater importance in determining the cost and profit of crop, but one which is very often disregarded. The marketable product of an acre of tomatoes weighs from 3 to 30 tons, which is not only more than that of most farm crops, but the product is of such character that its value is easily destroyed by long hauls over ordinary roads. It has to be marketed within a day or two of the time it is in prime condition, regardless of the conditions of the roads or weather; so that it is quite deceptive to estimate the cost of delivery at the same rate a ton, as for potatoes or wheat, for it always costs more, and sometimes several times more, to deliver tomatoes than it would to deliver the same weight of less perishable crops. In most cases the cost of picking and delivery is one of the most important factors in determining profit and loss, particularly when the crop is grown for canning factories, where one often has to wait for hours for his team to unload. These conditions make it very important that the field be located within a short distance of, and connected by good roads with the point of delivery.
Early maturing fruit.—Where early maturity is the great desideratum the exposure of the field is often very important. It should, first of all, be such as to secure comparative freedom from spring frosts so as to permit of early setting of the plants and the full benefit of the sunshine as well as protection from cold winds. There is often a great difference in these respects between fields quite near each other. Professor Rolfs, of Florida, mentions a case where the tomatoes in a field sloping to the southeast and protected on the north and west by a strip of oak timber were uninjured by a spring frost that killed not only all the plants in neighboring fields, but those in the same field farther away from the protecting timber. Such spots should be sought out and utilized, as often they can be used to great advantage. Immediate proximity to large bodies of water is sometimes advantageous in the South, but in the North it is often disadvantageous for early fruit because of the chilling of the air and the increased danger of spring frosts, although affording protection from those of early fall. Here, too, proximity of field to shipping point and distance and transportation rate to market are very important factors affecting profit on the crop.
The home garden.—The south side of buildings or of tight fences and walls often furnishes a most desirable place for garden tomatoes, but the plants should be set at least 6 to 10 feet from the protection and not so as to be trained upon or much shaded by them, as the disadvantage of shutting off the light and circulation of the air, even from the north, would more than overbalance anything gained by the protection.
Growing under glass.—In this country tomatoes are seldom grown under glass except during the darker winter months and the exposure of the house; the form of the roof and the method of glazing which will give the greatest possible light, are of importance, for tomatoes can not be profitably grown in a dark house. Just how the greatest amount of light may be made available in any particular case will depend upon local conditions, but every effort should be made to secure the most unobstructed sunlight possible and for the greatest number of hours each day.
Previous crop and condition.—In field culture tomatoes should not follow tomatoes or potatoes. Both of these crops make use of large quantities of potash, and although a small part of that used by the plants is taken from the field in the crop, they inevitably reduce the proportion of this element in the soil—that is, in such condition as to be readily available for the succeeding crop. It is true that the deficiency in potash may be supplied, but it is not so easy to supply it in a condition in which it is possible for the roots of the tomato to take it in. Unlike potatoes, tomatoes do not do well on new land, whether it be newly cleared timber lands or new breaking of prairie. Clover leaves the land in better condition for tomatoes than any other of the commonly grown farm crops, while for second choice I prefer one of peas, beans, corn, or wheat in the order named.
One of the most successful tomato growers I know of, whose soil is a rich, dark clay loam, prepares for the crop, as follows: Very late in the fall or early in the spring he gives a clover sod a heavy dressing of manure and plows it under. In the spring he prepares the ground by frequent cultivation and plants it with early sweet corn or summer squash. At the time of the last cultivation of these crops he sows clover seed, covering it with a cultivator having many small teeth, and rarely fails to get a good stand and a good growth of young clover before the ground freezes. In the spring he plows this under, running the plow as deep as possible and following in the furrow with a sub-soiler which stirs, but does not bring the sub-soil to the surface. He then gives the field a heavy dressing with wood ashes and puts it into the best possible tilth before planting his tomatoes. This grown usually harvests at least 500 bushels to the acre and has made a crop of over 1,000 bushels.
Early market.—In some sections of the South where the soil is light and the growers depend almost wholly on the use of large quantities of commercial fertilizer, they seem to meet with the best success by using the same field for several successive crops, but in some places they succeed best with plantings following a crop of cowpeas or other green soiling crops plowed under, with a good dressing of lime.
The experiences and opinions of different gardeners and writers vary greatly as to the amount and kind of fertilizer necessary for the production of the maximum crop of tomatoes. If the question were as to the growth of vine all would agree that the more fertilizer used and the richer the soil, the better. Some growers act as if this were equally true as to fruit, while others declare that one can easily use too much fertilizer and get the ground too rich not only for a maximum but for a profitable crop of fruit. I find that the amount an acre recommended by successful growers varies from 40 tons of well-rotted stable manure, supplemented by 1,000 pounds of complete fertilizer and 1,000 pounds of unleached ashes, to one of only 300 pounds of potato fertilizer.
In my own experience the largest yield that I can recall was produced on what would be called rich land, and the application of fertilizer for the tomato crop was not in excess (unless possibly of potash) of that of the usual annual dressing. I think that in preparing a soil for tomatoes, as in selecting social acquaintances, the "new rich" are to be avoided. A soil which is rich because of judicious manuring and careful cropping for many years can scarcely be too rich, while one that is made rich by a single application of fertilizer, no matter how well proportioned, may give even a smaller yield of fruit because of its excessive use. Again, the proportions of the various food elements vary greatly in different locations.
Professor Halstead finds that in his section of New Jersey the liberal use of nitrate of soda increases the yield and improves the quality, while in some localities of New York, Ohio, and the West, growers find that the yield of first-class fruit was actually lessened by its use. In some sections of the South liberality in the use of phosphates determines the amount and the quality of the crop, while at other points it seems to be of little value. In my own experience the liberal application of potash, particularly in the form of wood ashes, has more often given good results than the application of any other special fertilizer.
If called upon to name the exact quantity and kind of manure for tomatoes, without any knowledge of the soil or its previous condition, I would say 8 to 10 tons of good stable manure worked into the soil as late as possible in the fall or during the winter and early spring and 300 to 600 pounds of commercial fertilizer, of such composition as to furnish 2 per cent. nitrogen, 6 per cent. phosphoric acid and 8 per cent. potash scattered and worked into the row about the time that the plants are set. The use of a large proportion of nitrogen tends to rank growth of vine and soft, watery fruit. The use of a large proportion of phosphoric acid tends to produce soft fruit with less distinctly acid flavor; of potash, to smaller growth of vine and firm but more acid fruit.
I think that even more than with most crops it will be well for the farmer to experiment to determine the best and most economical fertilizer for his soil, setting aside five to ten plots of 1 to 4 square rods each and apply nitrate of soda, muriate of potash, wood, ashes, and phosphate alone and in different combinations. The results will suggest the combination which he can use to best advantage. In the majority of cases, however, where the soil is reasonably rich, expenditures for putting the ground in the best possible state of tilth will give larger returns than those for manures in excess of that which the land has usually received in the regular rotation for ordinary farm crops.
For the home garden.—Usually a dressing of wood ashes up to a rate of 1 bushel to the square rod, well worked into the soil before the plants are set, and occasionally watering with liquid manure, will generally give the best returns of any special fertilization, it being assumed that the garden has been well enriched with stable manure.
Tomatoes under glass.—Some growers recommend frequent waterings with liquid manure; others a surface dressing of sheep manure; still others a mulch of moderately well decayed stable manure. Plants growing under glass, particularly in pots or boxes, seem to be benefitted by so heavy a dressing that if applied to plants growing outside it would be likely to give excessive growth of vine with but little fruit.
Preparation of the Soil
The proper preparation of the soil before setting the plants is one of the most essential points in successful tomato culture. The soil should be put into the best possible physical condition and to the greatest practicable depth. How this can be best accomplished will vary greatly with different soils and the facilities at the command of the planter. My practice on a heavy, dry soil is to plow shallow as early in the spring as the ground is fit to work, and then work and re-work the surface so as to make it as fine as possible.
If I am to use any manure which is at all coarse, it is well worked in at this time. A week or 10 days before I expect to set the plants I again plow, and to as great a depth as practicable, without turning up much of the sub-soil, and if this has not been done within two years, follow in the furrows with a sub-soil plow which loosens, but does not bring the sub-soil to the surface. Then I work and re-work the surface, at the same time working in any dressing of well-rotted manure, ashes or commercial fertilizer that I want to use. I never regret going over the field again, if by so doing I can improve its condition in the least. On a lighter soil it might be better to compact rather than loosen as much as would give the best results with clay, but always and everywhere the soil should be made fine, friable and uniform in condition, to the greatest depth possible.
One of the most successful growers has said that if he could afford to spend but two days' time on a patch of tomatoes he would use a day and a half of the two days in fitting the ground before he set the plants. It is my opinion that any working of the ground that serves to get it into better mechanical condition, if done economically, will not only increase the yield, but to such an extent as to lower the cost a bushel. T. B. Terry's teaching of the necessity for working and re-working the soil, if one would have the largest crops of potatoes of the best quality, is even more applicable to the culture of tomatoes.
Home garden.—Here there is no excuse for setting plants in hard, lumpy soil. It should be worked and re-worked, not simply once or twice, but once or twice after it has been thoroughly worked. In short, the tomato bed should be made as friable as it is possible to make it and to as great a depth as the character of the sub-soil will permit.
Under glass.—I would strongly advise that soil for tomatoes, whether it is to be used in solid beds or in pots or boxes, be thoroughly sterilized by piling it not over 15 inches deep or wide over iron pipes perforated with two lines of holes about one-sixteenth inch in diameter and 2 inches apart and filled with steam for at least a half hour. It can be sterilized, but far less effectively, by thorough wetting with boiling water. It should always be well stirred and aired before the plants are set in it.
Starting plants.—From about the latitude of New York city southward, it is possible to secure large yields from plants grown from seed sown in place in the field, and one often sees volunteer plants which have sprung up as weeds carrying as much or more fruit than most carefully grown transplanted ones beside them. In many sections tomatoes are grown in large areas for canning factories, and as a farm rather than a market garden crop, individual farmers planting from 10 to 100 acres; and to start and transplant to the field the 25,000 to 30,000 plants necessary for a ten-acre field seems a great undertaking. Tomato plants, however, when young, are of rather weak and tender growth, and need more careful culture than can be readily given in the open field; and, again, the demand of the market, even at the canning factories, is for delivery of the crop earlier than it can be produced by sowing the seed in the field.
For these reasons it is almost the universal custom of successful growers to use plants started under glass or in seed-beds where conditions of heat and moisture can be somewhat under control. I believe, however, that the failure to secure a maximum yield is more often due to defective methods of starting, handling and setting the plants than to any other single cause. In sections where tomatoes are largely grown there are usually men who make a business of starting plants and offering them for sale at prices running from $1 or even as low as 40 cents, up to $8 and $10 a 1,000, according to their age and the way they are grown; but generally, it will be found more advantageous for the planter to start his plants on or near the field where they are to be grown.
Tomato plants from cuttings may be easily grown, but such plants, when planted in the open ground, do not yield as much fruit as seedlings nor is this apt to be of so good quality; so that, in practice, seedlings only are used for outside crops. Under glass, plants from cuttings do relatively better and some growers prefer them, as they commence to fruit earlier and do not make so rank a growth.
Seedlings can be most easily started and grown, at least up to the time of pricking out, in light, well-ventilated greenhouses, and many large growers have them for this specific purpose. Houses for starting tomato plants should be so situated as to be fully exposed to the sun and not shaded in any way; be provided with heating apparatus by which a night temperature of 60 and up to one of 80 deg. F. in the day can be maintained even in the coldest weather and darkest days likely to occur for 60 to 90 days before the plants can be safely set out in the open field; and the houses should be well glazed and ventilated.
Houses well suited for this purpose are often built of hotbed sash with no frame but a simple ridge-board and sides 1 or 2 feet high, head room being gained by a central sunken path and the sash so fastened in place that they may be easily lifted to give ventilation or entirely removed to give full exposure to sunshine, or for storing when the house is not needed. Hotbed sash 3x6 feet with side-bars projecting at the ends to facilitate fastening them in place are usually kept by dealers, who offer them at from $1.50 to $3 each, according to the quality of the material used.
A hot water heating apparatus is the best, but often one can use a brick furnace or an iron heating stove, connected with a flue of sewer or drain-pipe that will answer very well and cost much less. It requires but 6 to 10 square feet of bench to start plants enough for an acre, and a house costing only from $25 to $50 will enable one to grow plants enough for 20 acres up to the stage when they can be pricked out into sash or cloth-covered cold-frames in which they can be grown on to the size best suited for setting in the field. When a grower plants less than 5 acres it is often better for him to sow his seed in flats or shallow boxes and arrange to have these cared for in some neighboring greenhouse for the 10 to 20 days before they can be pricked out.
Hotbeds and Cold-frames
Plants can be advantageously started and even grown on to the size for setting in open ground in hotbeds. In building these of manure it is important to select a spot where there is no danger of standing water, even after the heaviest rains, and it is well to remove the soil to a depth of 6 inches or 1 foot from a space about 2 feet larger each way than the bed and to build the manure up squarely to a hight of 2 to 3 feet. It is also very important that the bed of manure be of uniform composition as regards mixture of straw and also as to age, density and moisture, so as to secure uniformity in heating. This can be accomplished by shaking out and evenly spreading each forkful and repeatedly and evenly tramping down as the bed is built up. Unless this work is well and carefully done the bed will heat and settle unevenly, making it impossible to secure uniformity of growth in different parts.
Hotbed frames should be of a size to carry four to six 3x6-foot sash, and made of lumber so fastened together that they can be easily knocked apart and stored when not in use. They should be about 10 inches high in front and 16 or 18 inches at the back, care being taken that if the back is made of two boards one of them be narrow and at the bottom so that the crack between them can be covered by banking up with manure or earth. In placing them on the manure short pieces of board should be laid under the corners to prevent their settling in the manure unevenly. I prefer to sow the seed in flats or shallow boxes filled with rich but sandy and very friable soil, and set these on a layer of sifted coal ashes covering the manure and made perfectly level, but many growers sow on soil resting directly on the manure; if this is done the soil should be light and friable and made perfectly level. A perspective view of a three-sash hotbed is given in Fig. 13, and of a cross-section in Fig. 14.
In some sections, particularly in the South, it is not always easy to procure suitable manure for making hotbeds, so these are built to be warmed by flues under ground, but I think it much better where a fire is to be used that the sash be built into the form of a house. A hotbed of manure is preferred to a house by some because of its supplying uniform and moist bottom heat—and one can easily give abundant air; but the sash can be built into the form of a house at but little more expense, and it has the great advantage of enabling one to work among the plants in any weather, while, if properly built, any desired degree of heat and ventilation can be easily secured. Except when very early ripening fruit is the desideratum, plants started with heat but pricked out and grown in cold-frames without it, but where they can be protected during cold nights and storms, will give better results than those grown to full size for the field in artificial heat.
Cold-frames.—In locations where tomatoes are much grown large areas are devoted to cold-frames covered either by sash or cloth curtains. Sash give much better protection from cold and on this account are more desirable, particularly where very early fruiting is wanted, but their first cost is much greater and the labor of attending to beds covered by them is much more than where cloth is used. Sash-covered beds should be of single width and run east and west, but if the beds are covered with cloth it is better that they be double width (12 feet) and run north and south. The front of the single and the sides of the double width beds should be 8 to 10 inches high, held firmly erect by stakes and perfectly parallel, both horizontally and vertically, with the back or with the central support. This should be 6 inches higher than the front. The cross strips, when sash are used, should be made of a 3-inch horizontal and a 1-1/2-inch vertical strip of 1-inch lumber nailed together very firmly in the form of an inverted T, the vertical pieces projecting 1 inch at each end and resting on the front and back of the bed and forming supports and guides for the sash. Some growers use vertical strips as heavy as 2x3 or 4 inches for stepping across the beds. When the plants are to be taken to the field, the sash and guides can be easily removed. (Fig. 15.)
Ground to be covered with cold-frames should be made very friable and rich by repeated plowing and working in of a liberal dressing of well-rotted stable manure and wood ashes. In southwestern New Jersey, where immense areas of early tomatoes are grown, the soil of the beds for a depth of about 6 inches is removed and a layer 3 to 5 inches deep of well-rotted stable manure is placed in. That made of a mixture of manure from horses, cattle and hogs is preferred. It is important that the manure be so well rotted that it will not heat, and so dry that it will not become pasty when tramped into a firm, level layer. On this they place a layer of nearly 3 inches deep of rich, friable, moderately compact soil and prick out the plants into this. The roots soon bind the manure and soil together and by cutting through the manure so as to form blocks one can carry the plants to the fields with but very little disturbance of the root.
Cloth covers for beds should be made of heavy, unbleached sheeting or light duck, and it is better that the selvage run up and down the bed rather than lengthwise. The cloth is torn into lengths of about 13 feet and then sewn together with a narrow double-stitched flat seam so as to form a sheet 13 feet wide and about 8 inches longer than the bed. The edges are tacked every foot to the strips about 2 inches wide by 7/8 inch thick with beveled outside edges and laid perfectly in line. A second line of strips is then nailed to the first so as to break joints with it and so that the two will form a continuous roller about a foot longer than the bed with the edge of the curtain firmly fastened in its center. The center of the curtain is secured to the central ridge of the bed by strips of lath. When rolled up, the rollers are held in place by loops of rope around their ends and when they are down they are held by similar loops to the notched tent-pins driven into the ground or to wooden buttons fastened to the sides and ends of the frame as shown in Fig. 16.
Cloth covers are sometimes dressed with oil, but this is not to be recommended, though it is an advantage to have them wet occasionally with a weak solution of copper sulphate or with sea water as a preservative and to prevent mildew. Such covers, well cared for, may last five years or be of little use after the first, depending upon the care given them. They can be made from 50 to 200 feet long and two men can roll them up or down very quickly.
When cloth covers are used the supporting cross-strips should not be over 3 inches wide nor more than 3 feet apart; sometimes the strips are made to bind the sideboard and ridge together by means of short pieces of hoop iron or of barrel hoop. These are so placed and nailed as to hold the upper edge of sideboards and of the central ridge flush with the cross-strips, thus forming a smooth surface for cloth to rest on and enabling one easily to "knock down" and remove the frames to facilitate the taking of the plants from the bed to the field and the storing of the frames for another season.
Flats for starting seeds.—Any shallow box may be used or the plants sown directly in the beds without them, but flats of a uniform size are to be preferred—these will pack well on the greenhouse shelves; or in the hotbed we make them with 7/8 inch thick ends and 1/2 inch thick sides and bottom, the latter if of a single board having four half-inch holes for drainage and in any case having two narrow strips about 1/4 inch thick nailed across their bottoms so as to allow drainage water to escape freely when the boxes are set on hard, cool floors. Two or three such boxes, 35-1/2 inches long, 12 inches wide and 3 inches deep, will be sufficient to start plants enough for an acre. I like to use similar boxes only 4 inches deep for growing the plants after they are pricked out, particularly if this is to be done in a greenhouse, as by turning them we can equalize exposure to light and thus distribute the plants in the field where they are to be set with the least possible disturbance. One would need nearly 60 such boxes for plants enough for an acre. On account of the lessened necessity for watering when plants are set in beds rather than in boxes, many growers prefer to grow their plants in that way.
This has been the subject of a vast amount of horticultural writing, and the practice of different growers, and in different sections, varies greatly. I give the methods I have used successfully, together with reasons for following them, but it may be well for the reader to modify them to suit his own conditions and requirements.
Largest yield.—Some 45 to 50 days before plants can be safely set in the open field the flats in which the seed is to be sown should be filled with light, rich, friable soil, it being important that its surface be made perfectly level, and that it be compact and quite moist, but not so wet as to pack under pressure. Sow the seed in drills 3/8 inch deep and 2 to 3 inches apart at the rate of 10 to 20 to the inch; press the soil evenly over them, water and place in the shade in an even temperature of 80 to 90 deg. F. As soon as the seeds begin to break soil, which they should do in three to four days, place in full light and temperature of 75 to 80 deg., keeping the air rather close so as to avoid necessity of watering. After a few days reduce the temperature to about 65 deg. and give as much air as possible. Some growers press a short piece of 2-inch joist into the soil of the benches, so as to form trenches 2 inches wide and about 3/8 inch deep, and so spaced as to be under the center of each row of glass, their sash being mostly made of five-inch glass. In this, by using a little tin box with holes in the top, like those of a pepper-box, they scatter seeds so that they will be nearly 1/8 to 1/4 inch apart, over the bottom of the 2-inch wide trench, and then cover. This has the advantage of evenly spacing the plants and so locating the rows that the plants will be little liable to injury from drip.
Young tomato plants are very sensitive to over-supply of water and some of the most successful growers do not water at all until the plants are quite large and then only when necessary to prevent wilting. In 10 to 15 days, or as soon as the central bud is well started, the plants should be pricked out, setting them 3 to 6 inches apart, according to the size we expect them to reach before they go into the field; 5 inches is the most common distance used. I think it better to set the full distance apart at first, not to transplant a second time. It is very important that this pricking out should be done when the plants are young and small, though many successful growers wait until they are larger. The soil in which they are set, whether it be in boxes or beds, should be composed of about three parts garden loam, two parts well-rotted stable manure and one part of an equal mixture of sand and leaf mold, though the proportion of sand used should be increased if the garden loam is clayey. The soil in the seed-boxes or in the beds, when the seedlings are taken up, should be in such condition, and the plants be handled in such a way that nearly all the roots, carrying with them many particles of soil, are saved. The plants should be set a little, and but a little, deeper than they stood in the seed-box and the soil so pressed about the roots, particularly at their lower end, that the plants can not be easily pulled out.
Where plants are set in beds the work can be facilitated by the use of a "spotting-board" (Fig. 17). This should be about 1 foot in width, and have pegs about 3 inches long, 3/4 inch in diameter at the base and tapering to a point, fastened into the board the distance apart the plants are to be set. It should also have narrow projections carrying a single peg nailed to the top of board at each end, so that when these pegs are placed in the end holes of the last row the first row of pegs in the "spotting board" will be the right distance from the last row of holes or plants. By standing on this, while setting plants in one set of holes, holes for another set are formed. If the conditions of soil, air and plants are right and the work is well done, the plants will show little tendency to wilt, and it is better to prevent their doing so by shading, rather than by watering, though the latter should be resorted to if necessary. When plants are set in beds, some growers remove the soil to a depth of about 6 inches and put in a layer of about 2 inches of sifted coal ashes, made perfectly level, and then replace the soil. This confines the roots to the surface and enables one to secure nearly all of them when transplanting. The plants should be well established in 24 hours and after this the more light and air that can be given, without the temperature falling below 40 deg. F. or subjecting the plants to cold, dry wind, the better.
One can hardly overstate the importance to the healthy growth of the young tomato plant of abundant sunshine, a uniform day temperature of from 60 to 80 deg. F., or of the ill effects of a variable temperature, particularly if it be the result of cold, dry winds, or of a wet, soggy soil, the effect of over-watering. These points should be kept in mind in caring for the plants, and every effort made to secure, as far as possible, the first named conditions and to avoid the latter. The frames, whether they be covered with sash or cloth, but more particularly if with sash in sunshine and with curtains in dull days, should be opened so as to prevent their becoming too hot, and so as to admit air. And in a greenhouse full ventilation should be given whenever it is possible to do so without exposure to too low a temperature. If the plants are in boxes and on greenhouse shelves, it is important that these be turned end for end every few days to equalize exposure to light and give full exposure to the sun. The plants should be watered only when necessary to prevent wilting, and the beds should be covered during heavy rains. A "spotting-board" for use on flats is seen in Fig. 18.
The most unfavorable weather conditions are bright sun combined with a cold wind, and cold storms of drizzling rain and frosty nights. Loss from the latter cause may often be prevented by covering the beds with coarse straw, which should always be provided for use in an emergency. Many growers provide a second curtain—an old one answers very well—to throw over the straw-covered beds. Beds so covered will protect the plants from frost in quite severe weather. Watering should especially be avoided for nearly three days before setting in fields; but six to twelve hours before it is well to water thoroughly, though not so as to make the soil at all muddy. About five days after pricking out and again about five days before the plants are to go into the field and five days after they are set, they should be sprayed with Bordeaux mixture.
Early ripening fruit.—Here the aim is to secure, by the time they can be set in the field, plants which have come by an unchecked but comparatively slow rate of growth to the greatest size and maturity consistent with the transplanting to the field without too serious a check. The methods by which this is accomplished vary greatly and generally differ materially from those given above. The seed is planted much earlier and 60 to 90 days before it is at all safe to set plants in the open field; while a steady rate of growth is desirable, it should be slow and the plants kept small by a second and even third and fourth transplanting, and especial care taken to avoid the soft and irregular growth resulting from over-watering or over-heating. Any side shoots which may appear should be pinched out and a full pollination of the first cluster of the blossoms secured, either by direct application of pollen or by staking or jarring the plants on bright days; and finally, special efforts made to set the plants in the field as early and with as little check as possible. Growers are often willing to run considerable risk of frost for the sake of early setting.
When one has sandy land a very profitable crop can sometimes be secured by sowing the seed very early, and growing the plants on in beds until the first cluster of fruit is set, then heeling them in, much as nursery trees are, but so close that they can be quickly covered in case of frost. As soon as it is at all safe to do so, they are set in the open ground, very closely, on the south side of ridges, so that only the upper one-third of the plant is exposed, the remainder being laid nearly level and covered with earth.