Garden Detective

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

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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Tomato contestant: Chris Schlesinger

Reader Chris Schlesinger says he hopes to be

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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

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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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Tomato contestant: Patrick Dean

Return challenger Patrick Dean of West Islip has

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Return challenger Patrick Dean of West Islip isn’t taking any chances: If these cages won’t adequately protect his Great White tomatoes, his guard dachshund will! Dean says he got a “late start due to weather this year, but it’s O.K., as they hit 5 feet tall." Last month, he reported spotting 60 tomatoes on the plants!

Save the date

Are you in? This year’s contest will be held at...

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Tomato contestant: Lionel Mailloux of Manhasset

Reader Lionel Mailloux is growing towering, 8-foot-tall tomato

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Lionel Mailloux of Manhasset credits “a combination of the weather and luck" for his towering 8-foot-tall tomato plants. The cherry and Big Beef varieties are producing fruit, he says, and "the plants are growing uncontrollably."

Mark your calendars: This year’s contest will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 23 at Newsday headquarters (235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville). Give your plants plenty...

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Tomato contestant: Burt Tarcher

Reader Burt Tarcher's tomato garden. (2013)

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Burt Tarcher of Great Neck has sent an update from his “Tarcher Victory Garden”:

“These babies were germinated from seeds and are San Marzano tomatoes. And yes I'm very proud! These amazing, meaty tomatoes are wonderful for sauce.” Tarcher gives his plants water, sunlight, organic feedings, coffee grinds and eggs shells. “They are overgrowing their 6-foot bamboo stakes and are still flowering...

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Tomato contestant: Bob Clark of Setauket

Bob Clark of Setauket grows corn, eggplant, cucumbers,

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Bob Clark of Setauket has tried a different tomato-growing approach this year -- and it appears to be working for him. He writes, “I never realized how much less work, and more fun, you can have with container vegetable gardening. This year I have tried growing everything I could in containers — corn, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, and various herbs. We have had...

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Featured Tomato Challenge contestant: Evan Gottesman, 8

Evan Gottesman, 8, of Farmingville, and his square-foot

(Credit: Handout, 2013)

Evan Gottesman, 8, of Farmingville, and his grandpa, Sal Ferrante of West Islip, started tomato seeds -- and peppers, beans, cucumbers and beets -- indoors, then Evan transplanted the seedlings to his square-foot outdoor vegetable garden. We’re looking forward to meeting Evan and his grandpa later this summer at the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge.

Are you in?

Mark your calendars:...

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Featured tomato contestant: Tony from Mineola

Tony from Mineola has entered the 2013 Great

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Tony from Mineola is growing 3 varieties of tomatoes this year. His strategy? Fertilizing every 3-4 weeks -- "and luck!“

Are you in?

This year’s contest will be held at 7 p.m. on Aug. 23 at Newsday headquarters (235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville.)

Give your plants plenty of tender loving care all summer long, then bring your biggest, heaviest, ripe fruit to the event. I’ll weigh...

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Tomato contestants: John and Joyce Chanda

John Chanda grows tomatoes in a 4-foot-by-4-foot patch

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Reader Joyce Chanda has a heartwarming story to tell: After she and her husband John tragically lost their Massapequa home during superstorm Sandy, the couple relocated to an apartment in Holbrook.

John and their son, Justin, have had "an obsession with gardening, especially, tomatoes," Joyce said, but after leaving their garden behind, "we thought this enjoyment was over,"...

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