Johnny's February Newsletter : Heirloom Tomatoes

February 2013
Heirlooms rich in taste, color, variety, and history

10 Tips for Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Select heirloom tomato varieties

Heirloom tomatoes are a favorite crop for many growers, bringing both a premium price and customers in search of old-fashioned tomato flavor. Heirloom tomatoes can be tricky though, requiring more labor and producing lower yields than modern tomato varieties.

The biggest issue for heirloom tomato production is disease. Most old-fashioned varieties have no disease resistance bred into them, unlike modern hybrids. As a result, heirlooms may not produce as long as disease-resistant varieties. And if they lose a significant amount of foliage to disease, they won't taste as good as they should because it's the leaves that convert sunlight into sugars and other flavor compounds. Preventing disease, then, is paramount for commercial production of heirloom tomatoes.

In this article, we recommend 10 strategies that can help make heirloom tomatoes profitable for your farm.

Protect Your Investment -- Grow Fruit Under Cover

Grow premium-quality fruit under cover

High tunnels have proliferated in the past decade, and there is no question that they can be profitable for vegetable crops. University researchers have also been analyzing small fruit production in high tunnels and, not surprisingly, are finding many benefits.

For berry growers, some of the advantages of protected culture include keeping foliage and fruit dry and thus less likely to suffer from disease; the ability to exclude birds, rabbits, and other wildlife that love berries; the ability to prevent weeds among the fruits; protection from hail, wind, and hard rains; cleaner berries; and a more comfortable picking environment. In many studies, high- tunnel crops have had higher yields than field crops. And the longer season afforded by high tunnels has meant significantly higher prices for out-of-season fruits.

If these sound like good reasons to grow berries in a high tunnel, read on. We’ll summarize some of the pertinent research, point you to some great resources, and maybe help you determine whether fruit could be a profitable part of your crop mix.

5 Key Benefits to Growing Fruit

Read the 5 Key Benefits of Fruit

Whether you most highly prize the superior flavor, health benefits, or visual appeal that fresh, locally-grown fruit brings to the table, it is easier now than ever to reap the rich benefits of growing fruit. Using leading new practices to cultivate Johnny's selected varieties of fruit seeds and plants, you can be first to enjoy fresh fruit in the spring, extend your season long into fall, and gain a reputation for premium quality.

JSS 40th Anniversary
Grower Profiles and Farm Visits

Circle Fresh Farms, Wheat Ridge, Colorado

Trialing 'Clermon' at Circle Fresh

Selling produce to large buyers such as supermarket chains can be tough for small, local growers who lack sufficient quantity and have a limited season of availability for any given item.

Circle Fresh Farms in Denver, Colorado has surmounted both obstacles with an innovative marketing arrangement in which 10 farms work together to provide sufficient quantity and year-round availability of tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. Even more unusual is the growing system used by all 10 farms: certified-organic, hydroponic greenhouse production.

Thanks to its success in the Denver metro area, Circle Fresh Farms is thinking about taking its model to at least two other cities later this year and expanding from there.

Also This Month

Video: How to Graft
Greenhouse Tomatoes

Learn how to graft tomatoes
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Growing Ideas

Review Tomato Grafting Yield Data
Read Grafting Blog »

News and Events

Johnny's Selected Seeds Celebrates 40th Anniversary
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Grower's Library
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