All for show

The record for the largest tomato was set in 1986 by Gordon Graham of Oklahoma, for a 'Delicious' weighing 7lb 12oz (3.51kg). Record-breaking or just for fun, showing tomatoes can be very satisfying.

Which class?

Usually, shows run by national organizations have traditional classes, but a local show may have a class for the ugliest or heaviest vegetable. Classes for 6-8 fruits require tomatoes of uniform size and color, with intact, fresh, green calyces.

Grooming marvelous

Good soil preparation is important: work in plenty of organic matter to feed the plant. A sunny site is best for growth, but protect fruits from sunscald in very hot weather. Water i regularly and apply a high-potash, or potassium (K), feed. Thin show tomatoes to five fruits per truss for the best shape and size. Support very large tomatoes; old nylons are stretchy and do not cut into the fruits. Protect ripening tomatoes from birds with netting or horticultural fleece.

It's all in the timing

Timing is vital in growing for exhibition. It is no good producing a perfect crop of evenly matched fruit if they do not ripen in the week of the show. Many variables affect maturation, chiefly sunlight and prevailing temperatures. The average number of days to maturity is often listed on seed packets, but these may vary greatly. The figure may be given as days from germination to first picking or as days from planting.

Exhibition growers often sow three or more batches of seeds at two-weekly intervals to ensure ripe tomatoes on the required day. Do not start your plants too early; even with grow-lights, it can be difficult to keep plants growing strongly. If you want giant fruits, expect it to take 140-150 days from sowing seed to harvesting a ripe tomato. A couple of days before the show, collect twice as many fruits as you need and place in a dark place to finish ripening. Select the best fruits on the day of the show. If fruit ripens too early, hold them back in the refrigerator at around 50°F (10°C) for up to three weeks; never freeze them, as they turn to mush on thawing. On the day of the show, label and present with care.

Varieties to show off

Good classic, round, F1 tomatoes include 'Cedrico,' 'Cleopatra,' and 'Vandos.' For giant fruits, try 'Slankards,' 'Omar's Lebanese,' or the hybrid 'Big Zac.'

Perfection Show fruits must be just ripe. >

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Growing Soilless

Growing Soilless

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