Fresh, juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes are among the sweetest pleasures of summer. Gardeners in Ohio face a shorter growing season than other parts of the country, but there's still plenty of heat and sunlight to produce enough tomatoes for fresh eating, sauce and sharing with your neighbors. Tomatoes should not be planted outside until after the danger of frost has passed; for most of Ohio that means about the end of May. Ohio gardeners can start tomato seeds indoors to get a head start on the season or purchase transplants. Tomatoes need fertile soil and benefit from an application of compost or composted manure. Tomatoes may need a bit more water than the rest of your garden to produce big, juicy fruit. Use a thick layer of mulch to retain moisture, keep weeds down and to help warm the soil during the cool spring and fall of Ohio. Tomato plants are bushy and reach about 2 to 3 feet tall; they should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart in rows 36 inches apart.
Early Girl salad tomatoes are a well-loved hybrid for gardeners in the upper Midwest. The sweet and slightly acidic fruits are about the size of a tennis ball. They start maturing early in the season, and the plants will continue to produce tomatoes throughout the summer. Early Girl tomatoes should be staked or trained up a trellis.
Roma tomatoes produce one large crop in late summer, so they lend themselves well to canning, freezing or drying. The flesh is dense and the fruit has few seeds. Use Roma tomatoes for making sauce, paste, ketchup and other products. The best flavor of Roma comes from cooking them, and the fruit is usually not eaten fresh, although some new Roma hybrids have been bred for sweeter, somewhat juicier flesh. Romas are pear-shaped and about 2 to 3 inches long.
These cherry tomatoes ripen to a soft orange hue, and their sugar-sweet flavor makes them an irresistible garden snack. The small fruit matures early and will keep on coming until frost. Compared to other tomato varieties, Sun Gold can handle cool weather early or late in the season in stride. Sun Gold tomatoes are a good choice for container gardening. Use a 5-gallon container with drainage holes on the bottom for planting them.
A classic heirloom tomato developed by Amish farmers in the 19th century, Brandywine produces huge, soft fruit that can weigh 1 lb. or more and that may crack a little on top as it ripens. The comparatively dry summers of Ohio suit Brandywine tomatoes well, since they are vulnerable to disease in humid climates. Use Brandywine tomatoes on sandwiches or cook them down for a sweet, richly flavored tomato sauce.
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