We grow four “generations” of tomatoes every year on the farm, two under cover and two in the fields. The earliest harvest is expected to begin in late May, about a month after the farmstand opens for the season. Our last crop of field tomatoes ripens in September.
The first generation of Morning Glory tomatoes gets started in early January, when Jim and Debbie sow the seeds at home and tend them carefully until they’re ready for transplant. The growing seedlings spend more time under lights at the farmstand — with added heat and ventilation, our well-insulated main cooler makes an excellent grow room — before they’re transplanted to heated, double-walled greenhouses around March 1.
A week to 10 days ahead of the transplant date, we start using electric power from our windmill to run an array of hot water pipes in the greenhouse soil to heat it up. After the seedlings go into the soil, we water them in and add a small hive of bumblebees to each greenhouse — until the doors open in May, these bees are the tomatoes’ only pollinators.
Following our Morganic practice, we use only natural fertilizers in the greenhouses. In wet seasons, we apply two natural fungicides, in rotation. For pest control, we use predatory insects.
Of all the tomato varieties we have grown over the years, our top choice for flavor is Geronimo, from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine. We continue to try out two new varieties every year, but so far nothing beats Geronimo. We feel we can ripen six clusters per plant, but eight clusters is not too rare either. We hope for 12 to 14 pounds per plant, or about 6,000 to 7,000 pounds from each 2,600-square-foot greenhouse.
The greenhouses protect these disease-prone Mediterranean plants from dew and rain, while we keep the soil floor obsessively neat and weed-free. We trellis each plant up a single string to about eight feet high, pruning to one stem and removing all foliage below the lowest ripening fruit cluster. Our greenhouse tomatoes can produce four to five times as much fruit per plant as the same varieties planted outside.
In March, we’ll sow our second generation of Morning Glory Farm tomatoes for 2017. Meanwhile, just like you, we’re making do with canned tomatoes and whatever we can get at the supermarket. This vinaigrette recipe from our Farm Food cookbook calls for plum or Roma tomatoes: »»Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette.