Really though... What makes our tomatoes amazing?
This is the question we most often get from first time eaters and those that have been eating our stuff for years. Of course our sign reads "Amazing Tomatoes" but that doesn't actually make them amazing. My response to first time eaters is always the same; "taste them!” After the first bite they always pause then look up at me and say "Wow, I want that one". But then, I have to suggest they try one of each kind that is on the plate so their confidence in our product is secured. Odds are, whatever they taste first is still their favorite but it’s always noted that they are all indeed amazing and a nice variety winds up in the basket. My response to those that have eaten them for some time is usually something like "the effort and care we give while growing them has spectacular results". They say things like "I have even saved seeds from your tomatoes and grown them myself and they still don't compare... What do you do different?"
So what actually makes them amazing? There are many things but I think the main thing is our watering and fertilizing methods. First, I will give you some insight to our fertilization program. We use all 3 different methods and numerous organic products; Foliar, Irrigation Drip, and Granule.
Foliar Fertilizer and Micronutrient - is labor intensive as we have to walk a tank up and down every row (over 60, 100’ rows of tomatoes but our other stuff gets the same treatment) and spray them with a spray wand on each side. With 20,000+ plants, this takes some time but we manage to get the whole garden done about every ten to fourteen days. Foliar feed is said to be the most effective for nutrient absorption but I am not yet convinced.
Granular Fertilizer - applied in three stages. The first stage is done at transplant deep below the base of the root ball. The second is done when the plants start to flower, and the third is done a little later in the season. The granule method is labor intensive as well. Each scoop is applied by hand and then watered in to keep from burning the plant while ensuring adequate absorption. Can you imagine how long it takes to scoop and pour a portion at the base of each plan? Say it takes 15 seconds on average per plant and another 15 seconds to water each scoop in. Multiply that by 9000 and you get 270,000 seconds or 4,500 minutes or 75 hours. It actually takes longer than that if you calculate the time it takes to move a 400' hose up and down each row and then there is the time it takes to get new bags of fertilizer out of the barn, cut them open, and load them into your cart and then to your pail as you walk along. Whew!
Irrigation Drip - is by far the easiest as labor goes but is very costly because the organic fertilizer concentrate can be as much as $80 per gallon. If the application rate is a half ounce per gallon, per plant, then we are looking at 35 gallons. We also make our own so it can cut that cost in half. We simply pour organic liquid fertilizer into the irrigation holding tanks and from there it is dispersed to one of 6 dispersal allotments.
All of these fertilizers are ingested differently in the plant and each one offers different characteristics to the flavor, health, and yield of the plant. Yes, it would be cheaper, easier, and greatly reduce our headaches if we didn't take all these measures (pun intended) but the bottom line is taste and this is the way we have been doing it for 15 years now.
Fertilizer is only the beginning of how we get our amazing tomato taste. Watering consistently and properly is extremely important too.
In the beginning, we water nearly every day. Each row of 130+ has its own valve and all are open for the first 6 weeks. Once the tomatoes start fruiting, we change the watering schedule to every other day even if it rains because our rows are mulched and the rain water only gets to the base of the plant through a little 3" hole. Most folks with big tomato farms swear that rarely watering their plants is the best option and that, in conjunction with amending the soil at the beginning of the season is often said to be the best recipe for tasty tomatoes but it's simply NOT true. If it were, we would do it and save a ton of money!
“Dry grow” tomatoes are spongy in comparison and obviously not as juicy. You can see this by cutting them open next to ours and it could be the same variety from the same seed packet. The juice spills out of ours and the others have less juice and sometimes have large air cavities within. Watering without fertilizing has adverse affects too causing the tomatoes to be “watery” which means these tomatoes are juicy but flavorless.
There are some downsides to watering often, however. Watering is expensive so if our results had been positive during our “dry grow” attempts, we would have continued it. Additionally, Cobinsteinz tomatoes have more splits thus decreasing the “sellable/useable” yield by at least 40%. Some folks think splits, marks, and blemishes are ugly but we see our results though our palate rather than eyes. Of course, we want them to look appetizing but a split here and there is part of the trade for better taste.
A juicy, flavorful tomato is the BEST!!! Just think of all the times you have had a wonderful BLT piled high with a half-pound of bacon and the same of tomatoes… the one that if you didn’t have lettuce, your bread would be a soggy slop. Now, remember that big bite that caused a hunk of your thick sliced tomato to slide out? Yes, that one! Remember how juicy it was and how something that, at first, seemed disappointing but after you ate the tomato by itself, you were more than pleased for the incident?!! From then on, you always hope to have a BLT that good again and, if possible, always try to get a few extra tomato slices on the next sandwich just so one may slide off and be a treat unto itself.
To those of you that took the time to read all this, I thank you and we are grateful that you like our product and now have a better understanding of at least a small (but important) part of our efforts. To see or learn more, visits are always welcome Monday through Thursday evening 6 to 9 but call ahead. Thanks again! -john