Nothing beats vine-ripened home-grown tomatoes, especially when you grew them yourself. In the termperate zone , when the season is over in late summer or early fall, it is a long wait (8 months) before they will be available again. Why can't there be good ones year-round instead of the tough-skinned tasteless things that are sold during the winter months?
The tomatoes grown in Florida, California and Mexico for shipment to the North are picked green. That is necessary because it allowed to ripen on the vine they would spoil before they reached the market. (A study by researchers at the University of Maryland found that some people prefer them to the juicy summertime ones. Most were women with office jobs who stopped at the supermarket on the way home to pick up vegetables to make a salad. They preferred them because that is what they were used to.)
The big problem with growing tomatoes in the North in greenhouses or on the windowsill during the winter months is inadequate light. They need four or five hours of direct sun daily or the equivalent to produce good fruit. The cost of growing them makes it impractical as a commercial enterprise.
Many gardeners do grow them in greenhouses for themselves during the winter but seldom get really good crops. Growing them in water (the hydroponic or soilless culture method) has some attractive features but ties up more than $25,000 for materials and installation.
More and more gardeners are trying to grow them in the home on a sunny windowsill or under artifical light; either way, it is fairly easy to get vine-ripened fruit, but usually there is hardly enough of it provide much more than a taste. f
The ones that are grown outdoors during the summer are not suitable for growing indoors, even in a greenhouse. A variety is needed with resistance to the major diseases that occur under greenhouse conditions. In many greenhouses high humidity makes possible the spread of disease, such as fusarium wilt, mosaic, blossom end rot, leaf mold and botrytis stem rot.
Varities commonly grown in greenhouses includes Michigan-Ohio hybrid, Tucross 520 and Tucross O. It is better to plant two or three varieties, if there is room enough.
In the home, for late October through January with many sunless and short days, there is not enough sunlight for flowering and fruiting. The use of fluorescent lamps can help a lot, particularly during cloudy days.
The best varities, in fact the most practical ones for growing in the homes, are Burpee's Pixie Hybrid, Small Fry Hybrid and Tiny Tim, seeds of which are listed in the catalogue of Burpee Co., Warminster, Pa., 18974, which will be sent free upon request.
Pixie grows 14 to 18 inches tall and bears bright scarlet tomatoes about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The fruit has a good tomato flavor and ripens in about 52 days.
Small Fry Hybrid produces small, tasty, bright-red marble shaped fruit one inch in diameter in 52 days. It won an All-American award.
Tiny Tim grows about 15 inches tall with 3/4 inch tomatoes, brilliant scarlet and fine-flavored. Fruit ripens in about 55 days. t
These tomatoes will need 10-to 12-inch pots for best results indoors.