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Greenhouse tomatoes are surprisingly good

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
Garden centers and retail outlets are having a banner year selling vegetable transplants, especially tomato transplants.
Both experienced and novice gardeners long for fresh, homegrown tomatoes. It will be a few more weeks before local, field-grown tomatoes ripen, especially with unseasonably cool weather.
Ironically, a few local growers are producing tasty greenhouse tomatoes now. Admittedly, there’s nothing like a homegrown tomato, picked right off the vine. However, a fully ripened greenhouse tomato comes very close to replicating that homegrown tomato taste.
Johnny Harris has been producing greenhouse tomatoes for 15 years and has produced another great crop this season. Harris uses a conventional greenhouse cultivar, Trust, for his greenhouse tomato crop. Harris normally grows two greenhouse tomato crops, beginning with a fall crop in November and ending the season with an early summer crop in late June. Greenhouse tomato cultivars are often indeterminate type, reaching heights of 8 feet or more.
In addition to their field-grown tomatoes, Patterson Farms Inc. also produces greenhouse tomatoes. Known for their large planting of field-grown tomatoes, this is their second year of producing greenhouse tomatoes.
Patterson Farms is using Geronimo, a prolific greenhouse tomato variety.
Other commercial tomato producers, Tim Sloop and Greg Hartsell of Twin Oaks Farm, are doing a bit of experimenting with greenhouse tomatoes. They have converted a field grown tomato cultivar into a greenhouse tomato crop. Crista, normally grown as a field tomato, began the first part of this spring as a greenhouse tomato. As the season progresses and as the plants mature and set fruit, plastic is removed and the crop is transformed as a tunnel house tomato.
Sloop and Hartsell began their experiment in early January, placing tomato plants in individual pots in rows similar to those grown in the field. Christa is a determinant tomato growing with a limited height of 3 feet, staked similar to those in the field to keep them upright, facilitating harvest. This non-conventional system of producing field tomatoes in a greenhouse is doing well. Sloop and Hartsell are strongly contemplating a similar system for a late fall and an early winter tomato crop.
– Sloop and Hartsell sell their greenhouse tomatoes at their farm on Patterson Road in China Grove and at local farmers’ markets. Their contact number is 704-857-9429.
– Johnny Harris’ greenhouse tomatoes are located on N.C. 150, 5 miles west of Salisbury. Harris’ hours are limited to Monday-Thursday.
– Patterson Farms Inc. tomatoes can be found at local farmers’ markets and their retail market, Patterson Farms and Tours Market, 704-797-0013 on Caldwell Road, off N.C. 150, 6 miles west of Salisbury.
Darrell Blackwelder is an Extension agent in horticulture at the Rowan County Center North Carolina Cooperative Extension; contact him at 704-216-8970.
 

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