Garden Detective

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

Great Long Island Tomato Challenge tonight!

Who will win this year's Great Long Island

(Credit: Newsday)

I'm dusting off my trusty scale and getting prizes together -- it's Great Long Island Tomato Challenge day! No need to register, just show up with your biggest, baddest tomato at 235 Pinelawn Rd. in Melville at 7 p.m. Follow the red balloons to the entrance. I'm looking forward to a fun evening of tips and tomato camaraderie with readers before weighing tomatoes and naming a winner. See you tonight!...

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Latest tomato challenger: Emma Pnini, 6 1/2

Emma Pnini, 6 1/2, of Roslyn is growing

(Credit: Handout)

Emma Pnini, 6 1/2, of Roslyn is at it again. Last year, the adorable novice gardener tried her hand at tomatoes and entered the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge. This year, with some experience under her belt, she added snap peas, string beans and lettuce to her garden. We'll see you in August, Emma!

Are you in?

The 2012 Great Long Island Tomato Challenge will be held at 7 p.m. Friday,...

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This week's tomato contestant: Janet Hart

Tomato Challenge contestant Janet Hart with her father,

(Credit: Handout)

Janet Hart of Lindenhurst has attended every annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge, showing great spirit in her signature tomato tank top. And she’s gearing up to win in 2012: “This year I received some seeds from [former contestants], but if I win, I hope it is from my seeds. See you soon! -- The future Tomato Queen Janet Hart.”

That's the spirit! Are you in?

The 2012 Great Long...

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Growing vegetables in car wash barrels?

Robin Dinhofer of Merrick planted onions, celery, cabbage,

(Credit: Handout)

Robin Dinhofer of Merrick has some of the season’s most creative raised beds. Her son, Andrew, a mechanical engineering student, built them using recycled materials: 55-gallon car wash barrels cut in half, wood, bolts and paint. Dinhofer filled each half way with golf balls for drainage and then added potting mix. “We have been renovating our yard, as we lost our pool and pier last August thanks...

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Another tomato challenge joins the party!

Reader Tina Valetutti-Kraemer's tomato plants.

(Credit: Handout)

Reader Tina Valetutti-Kraemer has joined this year’s Great Long Island Tomato Challenge, starting her plants from seeds she obtained from prizewinning tomato growers, including Great Long Island Tomato Challenge veteran Billy King: "I started them a little earlier this year in newspaper pots with Father Nature's Seed Starting mix,” she said. “When I planted them in the garden, I added two tablespoons...

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Tomato Challenge 2012: featured contestant

Reader Matthew Barcia from West Hempstead, a verteran of the Challenge, has thrown his hat back into the ring! “Recently I purchased Big Zac seeds, as well as Australian seeds from an internet site located in Utah,” he writes. “It is my hope that finally I will be able to compete with a winning giant tomato.” Barcia started his seeds this year in a cleverly recycled 10-gallon lighted fish tank!


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Great Long Island Tomato Challenge 2012

Tomato Growers Take the Challenge

It's tomato time!

The 2012 Great Long Island Tomato Challenge will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24 at Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville.

Strategize now and nurture your plants all summer long, then bring your biggest, heaviest fruit to the event, where I will weigh tomatoes and name this year’s Tomato King or Queen.

In the meantime, send a photo of yourself with your tomato...

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Planting tomatoes too early

Here's one from the mailbag that probably will be of help to many of you who got antsy because of all the warm weather and jumped the gun.

Hi, Jessica,

I planted some tomatoes and eggplants in pots, but I am afraid I started a bit too soon. I probably should have waited another week. Any suggestions?  — Loyda Fiorenza, Seaford

If they are outdoors, bring them in and keep them...

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