MIDDLESEX TWP — Usually you don’t need a stepladder to pick cherry tomatoes, but this has been an unusual year for gardener Tom Hornyak.
He’s got six cherry tomato plants growing in two pots on his patio that are each close to 12 feet tall.
Hornyak has got the plants tied to a tripod attached to his house’s rain gutter, and last week the plants started producing ripe tomatoes.
“I will probably get about 1,500 tomatoes. It’s ridiculous how much they produce,” he said. “We give them away, we put them in salsas, but how many can you eat?”
Since the tomatoes are ripening from the bottom, right now, he said it’s easy to pick them. But eventually, he’ll have to use the stepladder to get tomatoes from higher up on the plant.
Hornyak, who also has a regular garden, said he started his giant plants from seeds in April. They are Super Sweets from the Burpee seed catalog.
“I used Miracle Gro and Miracle Gro potting soil, and you have to water them two times a day in this weather,” Hornyak said.
He doesn’t mind the extra watering because last year’s rains flooded out his garden.
He figures the plants will keep producing until the end of September.
“I’ve been gardening my whole life. It’s been a good year despite not having rain this year,” said the retired CPA and computer business owner.
“Twelve-foot high cherry tomatoes are definitely not the norm, but with daily attention to watering, good compost and/or manure, adequate space between plants and proper staking, many indeterminate varieties of tomatoes will grow beyond 10 feet,” said Lew Palka, Penn State Master Gardener.
“Some gardeners will cut off the tops of tomato plants, believing that transfers energy into the tomatoes, but they are just cutting off their food source,” said Palka.
Even though he’s only using about half of his 50-foot-by-50 foot regular garden, right now the only problem Hornyak has is what to do with all the vegetables his tomato plants and his regular garden will be producing.
“I’ve been giving away zucchinis, beans and cucumbers to everyone I know. My wife (Carol) says I’m an idiot for growing so much stuff,” he said. “I just like growing stuff.”
He spends about an hour a day in the garden, mostly weeding, and in this hot spell, watering.
It’s probably taking longer to find people to give his produce away to.
“My wife used to can, but she doesn’t do it anymore. It’s cheaper to buy at the Costco and easier for her,” he said.
He can pass some of the vegetables on to his sons, but that is hard because the closest of the three lives in Maryland.
“I belong to the Westview Sportsman’s Club. I take the extra down there and leave it out for the guys,” he said.