Garden Detective

Jessica Damiano's award-winning garden blog gets to the root of things.

Northport grower wins Great Long Island Tomato Challenge

William Bouziotis holds up his 3 lb., 5

(Credit: Ed Betz)

They came with baskets and boxes, cut-up cartons and dish towels, bowls and food storage containers. And each of those concealed one thing: a homegrown tomato that held the promise of victory.

About 110 tomato growers and their families came from all over Long Island on Aug. 23 to line up at my scale and compete for the title of Tomato King or Queen. The heaviest entry and first-place winner...

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Tomato Challenge tomorrow

Gary Schaffer of Lindenhurst, with his wife, Linda,

(Credit: Nicole Horton)

There's only one more day until the 2013 Great Long Island Tomato Challenge! Bring your heaviest, homegrown tomato to Newsday (235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville) tomorrow at 7 p.m. I'll weigh it, regale you with some tomato lore and crown this year's Tomato King or Queen.

Take LIE Exit 49S and drive up to Pinelawn Road. Turn south on Pinelawn Road and proceed straight for about 2 miles. Newsday's...

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Allan Armitage, fall gardening symposium and Longhouse Reserve

Allan Armitage will be the keynote speaker at

(Credit: Handout)

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and The Plantage are presenting a Fall Gardening Symposium on Saturday, Sept. 21 in East Hampton, and the best part is that the widely respected, world reknowned Allan Armitage will be the keynote speaker.

Armitage is a horticulturist, author, researcher and professor emeritus at the University of Georgia, where he also oversees the research...

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Featured tomato grower: Michelle from Great Neck

This week's crop, grown by Michele in Great

(Credit: Handout)

Michelle from Great Neck has been gardening with her parents since she was 5 years old. Now, she says, "growing heirloom tomatoes has become a bit of a passion for our family."

She sends in this photo of her weekly bounty, but fears it won't "still be good on the weigh-in date."

We hope to see Michelle -- and other tomato-growing readers -- at The Great Long Island...

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Featured tomato grower: Alex Perros

Alex Perros of East Meadow with his two

(Credit: Handout)

Alex Perros of East Meadow has two babies: His "attack dog," Bear, and his Brandywine and Beefsteak tomatoes. "This one is 1.5 pounds," he wrote recently, referring to one of the latter.

What's his secret? "I use just a little old-fashioned TLC," Perros told me. "Not a lot of water in the beginning of the growing phase, and the plants have to be placed where...

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Time to plant a second crop for fall vegetables

ROMANESCO: A veritable, edible work of art, the

(Credit: Fotolia)

Your spring-planted greens are fading but that's no reason to resort to store-bought. Sowing new seeds now (or buying more starter plants) can set you up for a wonderful fall harvest.

Lots of plants not only can handle cooler temperatures, but actually prefer them. Lettuces, for example, wither in the heat of summer. But start them again now and you'll be enjoying garden-fresh salads well...

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Tomato contestant: Vincent Profera

Proof that you don't need a lot of land to enjoy a homegrown harvest: Vincent Profera may not have the biggest tomatoes, but he certainly has the most unusual planting spot. The 85-year-old Wantagh resident is growing a crop in the inch-wide gap between his cement walk. He reports the plant is 4 feet tall and producing fruit.

What about you? The 2013 Great Long Island Tomato Challenge will...

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Tomato contestant: Chris Schlesinger

Reader Chris Schlesinger says he hopes to be

(Credit: Handout)

Chris Schlesinger of Bohemia has high hopes of “being crowned Tomato King 2013.” He’s growing Early Girl tomatoes, but he fears they will not produce fruit large enough to compete. So he’s started more plants, which he calls his “secret weapons."

His strategy? “I don't want to divulge my ‘trade secrets,’” he says coyly, but adds, “the nutrients given are all organic, and I have even added...

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Tomato contestant: Theresa Lawrence

Theresa Lawrence of Farmingdale started tomato seeds on

(Credit: Handout)

Theresa Lawrence of Farmingdale is 82 years old and still enjoys her garden. Last year, she had so much success growing Super Hybrid Beefsteak tomatoes that she decided to enter this year’s Challenge. In early March, she started plants from seeds on a sunny windowsill and mixed a bit of organic soil into her garden bed at planting time.

Are you in?

Mark your calendars: This year’s contest...

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