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Garden Lifestyle

Book Review: The Texas Tomato Lover’s Handbook

This book is a must-have reference for any tomato lover.

Photo/Illustration: Greg Holdsworth

“A garden-grown tomato, sliced and laid across a grilled hamburger . . . Sweet, plump cherry tomatoes in a crisp, green salad . . . Sauce made from fresh tomatoes, ladled over a steaming bowl of pasta . . . Spicy tomato salsa . . . Savory tomato soup . . .”

 Tired of mushy, half-green, tasteless tomatoes from supermarkets? If you already grow tomatoes, are you tired of growing a mediocre crop every year? …or losing the battle with diseases and pests? The Texas Tomato Lover’s Handbook could be your answer. William (Bill) Adams is a retired Harris County Texas extension agent with thirty years’ experience at the AgriLife Extension Service. Do not let the Texas title distract you. Practically all of the information given in the book applies to tomato growers everywhere.

Starting out the book is a chapter on must-have tools for the tomato patch. William lays out “a recipe for the perfect tomato crop” in the next chapter, which includes great information on choosing a location, growing your own transplants, grafting, preparing the soil, planting, caging, building a raised bed, and growing tomatoes in containers and greenhouses.

Tending the Tomato Patch, is again, a chapter full of helpful information. He talks about the best ways to plant and protect new transplants, building a metal cage and other support systems, using a fiber row cover, fertilizing and foliar-feeding, setting up an irrigation system, and finally how to clean up finished tomato plants for the season.

The next chapter, the largest in the book, is a huge list and description of several tomato varieties. Each variety is listed with its disease resistance, approximate days to harvest, and a helpful description written in a very personal tone. That is, I almost felt as though the author was describing them to me directly.

A brief digression to talk about photography. By far, the photography in this book (taken by William and Deborah Adams themselves) is some of the best I’ve ever seen in a book on gardening, period. What I really enjoyed about it was the photo selection. The photos showed you exactly what was needed to really help you understand the content.

Insects, diseases, weeds, and varmints are discussed in the next chapter. As William says, “Gardeners are not the only ones who love tomatoes.” Several helpful garden planning tips are discussed, and then he follows with insect pests, beneficial insects, and diseases. Finally, he goes over organic pest control spray options.

The book concludes with a chapter on tomato relatives – peppers, eggplant and tomatillos, as well as a source list for tomato seeds and plants.

If you are a big tomato fan as I am, The Texas Tomato Lover’s Handbook is a must-have reference that will greatly assist you in having a bumper crop, year after year.

The book is published by the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Service. It is available through Amazon (starting at $17), or through the Texas A&M University Press ($25). 

 

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