Seed Count: Approx. 30 seeds
Days to Maturity: 80 Days
Description: Homestead tomatoes are one of my favorite heirloom tomato varieties to grow in my zone 10b, South Florida garden. They consistently produce 8-9 oz., firm, bright red, meaty, smooth skinned fruits. The Homestead tomato is full of flavor, sweet, and juicy, making it perfect for eating fresh in sandwiches, salads, and salsas, and it's even great for canning. They're almost always one of the last plants standing and producing in my garden, even when that Florida heat rolls in. What makes me really love these tomatoes, besides their heat tolerance and wilt resistance, is their crack resistance, which is helpful, if you live in a fluctuating humid environment, like I do. No more cracked fruits! It also produces large vines and lots of foliage to protect your tomatoes from getting sun scalded. The Homestead tomato was actually bred by the University of Florida, to withstand heat, and reliably set fruit, even in higher temperatures. On average, they can bear 50 lbs. of fruit in a 6-7 week period. While the Homestead tomato is semi-determinate, it still requires support, as it grows to about 6 ft. tall.
How To Grow
Sowing: Start tomatoes indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost of spring, or direct sow in warmer climates. Sow seeds 1/4" deep and 1" apart. Tomatoes need 70-75 degrees F to germinate, as well as adequate light. Keep the soil moist, but make sure there is proper drainage, or the seeds can rot. When the second set of leaves emerge, transplant the seedlings into individual pots. Bury the stems up to the lowest set of leaves for strongly rooted plants.
Growing: Provide a trellis for this indeterminate tomato, providing extra supports where fruit set. Protect plants, if temperature drops below 55 degrees F, or damage will occur. Keep soil consistently moist, or cracking may also occur. Mulching can be beneficial to preserve moisture, and deter weeds. It is important to avoid wetting the leaves to reduce diseases. This variety is semi-determinate, and it is not recommended to prune its suckers, as you will drastically reduce its productivity. I surround my tomato plants with basil (it's a great Tomato horn worm deterrent) Other companions include, carrots, garlic, or onions. However, avoid planting them with cabbage, or corn.
Harvesting: Test the ripeness of tomatoes by pressing them gently; the flesh should yield slightly. The mature color also indicates ripeness. If the stem does not come easily off the vine, cut it with a scissors to avoid damaging the vines. Vine ripened tomatoes have the best flavor, but you can harvest them before they fully ripe if pests or weather become an issue. As soon as frost comes, all tomatoes should be harvested, even the green ones. Unripe tomatoes will ripen eventually, if kept in a warm place out of direct sunlight. Seed saving: Since cross pollination between most tomato varieties is unlikely, isolation is not a concern. Pick fully ripe tomatoes and separate the seeds from the pulp, and let completely dry. You can also ferment your seeds to remove the gel like substance on the seeds exterior. During fermentation, any bad seeds will float to the top, and all of the viable seeds stay sunk to the bottom. Fermenting your seeds can also increase germination rates as well. To ferment, squeeze the seeds, along with its gel, into a jar. Add some water, and let it sit at room temperature for a couple of days, you should see a film form on the top, and it should smell a bit sour. Once the film forms, skim it off the top, and rinse out your seeds. Place them on parchment paper to dry. Once dry, store your seeds for the next season.