If your conversation begins and ends at tomatoes with Farrand Farms' Mark Frischer you are doing yourself a disservice. A Kansas City Metro native, Mark has been stomping around Farrand Farms for years. He was exploring the acreage as a boy with Keith Farrand and worked the fruit stands up the street with the Farrand Family before it became what it is today. Before working at Farrand, Mark owned Jokers Pizza for 15 years where he crafted his menu with the finest ingredients while honing his skills on spices, food sources, and of course, vegetables.
Mark's hard work is our gain as he sat with me and shared his answers on our most frequently asked questions about planting, growing, and protecting tomato plants.
What's your advice for a a first-time tomato or vegetable gardener?
I would ask the customer about the sun and drainage of their yard. How new or old the soil is where they are planting and if they have access to manure. Depending on the customer's answers I would advise from there. I would say mix cotton burr compost into your soil though. When planting your tomato plant, plant it half way down. Most don't know but the little "hairs" at the bottom of the stem are actually more roots. Once the plant is in the ground, rake Preen into the soil to keep the weeds out. Tomato-tone is also good for promoting growth.
What tomatoes are easiest to grow?
Cherry tomatoes are easiest to grow. They are also indeterminate, meaning they continue to grow tomatoes all summer long until the freeze kills the plant.
What are the best tomatoes for salsa or sauce?
Roma, San Marzano, or Giant Italians
What are the best tomatoes to eat right off the vine?
Cherry tomatoes or a classic like your Big Boy. Pop it in and you're done.
What are the best tomatoes to grow in Missouri or in our region?
Honestly it doesn't really matter.
How far do you space out tomato plants when planting them?
At least three feet. Tomatoes like room. Make sure the plants are spaced so that they don't shadow each other and have plenty of room for breeze. In our area, area 6, each tomato plant should yield 50-60 tomatoes.
How do you keep bugs off of tomato plants?
Just spray them with a concoction of water, white vinegar, and Dawn dish soap.
How do you keep rabbits, squirrels and other pests off of your tomatoes?
Get a cat or buy Deer Scram or Captain Jack. (shameless plug: all are available at Farrand Farms). Planting marigolds also help keep them out. Squirrels are the hardest to keep out. Honestly, if you have too many squirrels then don't bother planting vegetables. However, Farrand also sells a nylon netting that will help keep squirrels and other critters out.
Any other advice for growing tomatoes?
Always water in the morning before the sun is out or in the evening at dusk (just like fishing!).
When Mark isn't working at Farrand he is an inventor and entrepreneur. The man behind the patented Swat and Tap, No Mess Swatter. Just swat the insect and tap it in the trash can - no more picking up spiders or insects. Pick up your own at Farrand Farms or directly from Amazon!