Start tomato seeds inside at least 6 weeks before last frost (around 4/1). Ideal temperature for germination is 85° (use a heating mat). Days to germination: 5-14. Once leaves appear, grow plants at 72°. Plant seedlings outside late May into fertile garden soil (with lots of compost or decomposed manure) at a spacing of 18” apart. Stake tomato plants. Tomatoes are susceptible to several fungal diseases (including Early and Late Blight and Verticillium Wilt). To prevent blight, keep foliage dry by 1) Pruning tomato plants to allow for good air circulation 2) Water with drip irrigation/soaker hoses. Crop rotation is also key to preventing tomato diseases. Ideally, plant tomato plants in a spot that has not had any Solanaceae crops (tomato, peppers, eggplant, potatoes) growing there for 4 years. Frequent watering will help to minimize cracking of tomatoes.
Harvest when fully orange colored and fruit is somewhat soft when squeezed. Pick individual tomatoes and eat asap, or to avoid splitting fruit when picking, clip entire clusters and store “on the vine” until ready to use.
Tomatoes are relatively easy seed-saving crops. They are primarily self-pollinated but may be crossed pollinated by insects when different tomato varieties are planted next to one another. You can just save seed and see what you get! Isolation distance of 10ft will minimize crossing while 150’ is necessary to eliminate it. Always harvest seed from the best plants. It is best, but not totally necessary, to collect seeds from a minimum of 6 plants. Collect ripe tomatoes and cut and squeeze out seeds. See instructions for fermenting seeds. Rinse and dry seeds on a screen or wax paper.