Fruit or vegetable, now that is the question! Much confusion exists around tomato’s classification, but that doesn’t make homegrown tomatoes any less delicious. Believed to have originated in South America, the tomato plant has made its way up through Mexico to the US and Canada and even to Europe via Spanish conquistadors, where it has since become a beloved ingredient in all manner of cuisines. While the “fruit” part of the plant is clearly edible, the rest of the plant is, in fact, toxic and should be grown somewhere away from small children and furry friends who have a tendency to explore the world with their taste buds. The tomato plant comes in a plethora of varieties which vary in shape, color, size, and taste, so we recommend investigating all your options and selecting varieties that cater to your preferences prior to growing!
The Early Girl Tomato is F1 hybrid tomato known for its quick growth, early ripening, and high productivity of medium-sized fruits. This is an indeterminate variety, so make sure to provide support for its sprawling growth. Early Girl Tomatoes are famous for producing continuously throughout a short growing season, with ripe tomatoes showing up within two months of transplanting outside. Fruits pack a punch of delicious flavor and are great for canning, sauces, or using fresh. Plants will not tolerate frosts without protection, so time these beauties carefully.
Seed Depth: 1/4″
Space Between Plants: 18–24″
Space Between Rows: 3–5′
Germination Soil Temperature: 70–90°F
Days for Germination: 6–10
Sow Indoors: 5–7 weeks before average last frost date.
Sow Outdoors: After all danger of frost has passed and soil is at least 60°F. Only recommended if your growing season is long.
Vegetative: Can be easily propagated by taking root or stem cuttings or by layering. Cuttings will root in an aeroponic system or soilless media.
Grows best in warm weather. Be sure that you plant early in areas with short summers to allow time for ripening before the first frost. If your summer is extremely hot (regularly over 90°F), some light shading will help tomatoes stay happy. Not frost tolerant.
Natural: Full sun. Prefers partial afternoon shade in warm weather.
Artificial: Grows best under HID lamps due to their need for tons of light. Use metal halide for the vegetative growth and switch to high pressure sodium when you want the fruit to start forming.
Soil: Prefers a well-drained loamy or sandy soil with a high amount of organic matter. A pH between 6.0 and 6.5 will keep plants healthy and nourished. Lighter soils are best for early varieties.
Soilless: Start seeds and root cuttings using a soilless mix.
Hydroponics: Thrives in a variety of hydroponic systems, including NFT, slab, and media-based systems. Use perlite or mineral wool as the growing medium.
Aeroponics: Cuttings will root in aeroponic systems.
Water: Requires moderate levels of water. Once established, they are fairly drought tolerant. Even soil moisture is necessary to prevent cracking fruits and blossom end rot. Avoid getting water on the leaves.
Nutrients: Requires high levels of nutrients. Amend soil with compost and aged manure before planting. Fertilize 3–5 times during the growing season using a balanced liquid fertilizer, compost tea, and/or liquid seaweed.
Pruning: Remove suckers—the auxiliary buds that form at the intersection of leaf and stem—to divert that energy into fruit production.
Mulching: Use mulch to conserve soil moisture. Black plastic mulch can be helpful to warm the soil more quickly and allow earlier planting.
Support: Indeterminate varieties need staking, trellis, cages, or another type of support for best results.
Disease(s): This variety is resistant to Verticillium wilt and Fusarium wilt.
Deficiency(s): A calcium deficiency can lead to blossom end rot.
Rotation: A 3-year rotation away from all plants in the Solanaceae family is recommended. Plant after a cover crop or nitrogen-fixing legume like peas or beans. If nematodes are a problem, plant after tilling marigolds into the soil.
Companions: Grows well with basil, asparagus, beans, bee balm, borage, carrots, celery, chives, cucumber, garlic, lettuce, marigolds, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, pea, pepper, and sow thistle. Avoid dill, corn, kohlrabi, potatoes, apricot, fennel, cabbage, and cauliflower. Don’t plant tomatoes under walnut trees.
Harvest: Pick fruit at the peak of ripeness when there is no green or orange color left for the best taste. As an indeterminate variety, the Early Girl plant will continuously produce fruit until the first frost so be sure to check plants daily or every other day until cold weather sets in to make sure you don’t miss any ripe tomatoes. They don’t need sunlight to ripen, so be sure to reach all the fruits in the middle of the plant. Wear long sleeves and gloves when harvesting to protect your skin from potential irritation that some people experience after contact with tomato leaves.
Storage: Keep fresh tomatoes at room temperature for 2–3 days for the best taste. Handle gently and store ‘upside down’ with the stems carefully removed. If you can’t eat your entire harvest, we recommend preserving tomatoes rather than refrigerating them, since this alters the texture of the fruit.
Alternate Growing Method: Tomatoes are well-suited for what’s called “dry farming.” Using this technique, tomatoes are not watered once they’re transplanted, which forces the roots to grow deep to seek out subterranean water. Aficionados of this technique claim that tomatoes grown this way have a stronger and tastier flavor. It’s easy on your water bill, too.
Pollinators: If you’re growing indoors or somewhere pollinators can’t reach, flicking flowers gently will help to disperse pollen.
Preserve: Tomatoes are easy and fun to can as sauce, cubes, or peeled and whole. Green tomatoes can be made into a chutney or salsa and canned or pickled.
Prepare: As one of the earliest producing varieties, this tomato is mostly prized for its use when fresh and raw. Can be used to make sauces, ketchup, soup, and raw and sliced in salads or on sandwiches. Green tomatoes are delicious sliced, breaded, and fried. Tomato salsas are also a delicious use.
Nutritional: Provides high levels of vitamin(s) A and C. Also a good source of B vitamins, potassium, and calcium.
Medicinal: Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant compound that is currently being investigated for its cancer fighting and cholesterol lowering abilities. Lycopene may also help your skin protect itself from UV damage. Regular consumption may also help protect against heart disease.
Warnings: Tomato leaves can be a skin irritant for some, so wear long sleeves and gloves when harvesting.
Try this simple but delicious tomato salad recipe to take advantage of your first fresh tomato harvest.