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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Growers get ready for the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge

It's almost time for the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge! Readers (we hope that includes you!) have been watering, weeding and feeding their tomato gardens all summer long to prepare for this year's competition.

Are you in?

There is no need to register; just bring your biggest (or smallest or ugliest) tomato to the Campus Center at Farmingdale State College, ballrooms B and C at 2350 Broadhollow Rd. (Rte. 110) at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23. Please park in Lot 4A. I’ll weigh (or otherwise judge) your entry, and you could be named the tomato king or queen of 2019. (Visit newsday.com/tomato for official rules and more information.) Please carry your tomato entries in a container or bag to protect carpeting from mishaps.

In the meantime, here's one last look at what tomato growers around Long Island have been up to all summer long.

Lost in a sea of tomatoes

Tony Corsentino, a Tomato Challenge veteran from Mineola,
Photo Credit: Linda Corsentino

Tony Corsentino, a Tomato Challenge veteran from Mineola, has a special helper from Hauppauge this year: "My grandson Kevin Drake, who is 16, has joined in on this family tradition," he writes, explaining that "this year, we added an extra dose of nitrogen, phosphate and cow manure." The duo is growing Belgian giants as well as seeds obtained from Portugal and Sicily. "I wish all the participants luck and look forward to seeing you at your uplifting event," Corsentino says.

A 'nosey' tomato

Alex Prudente, 8, of Huntington,
Photo Credit: Terry Prudente

Alex Prudente, 8, of Huntington, "nose" something about growing tomatoes! He had some fun with this one, which he grew with his grandfather Frank Prudente of Northport, in a patio pot.

Adio and the tomato stalk

Adio Crocco, of Huntington Station, may not have
Photo Credit: Rita Crocco

Adio Crocco, of Huntington Station, may not have planted tomatoes this year, but the 10-foot-tall plants he grew last summer certainly deserve recognition! Starting his plants from seeds, "he usually plants a big garden, but also in planters, as you can see in the photo," writes his proud daughter, Rita Crocco. His secret? "Just regular garden tomatoes, grown in regular soil," she reports. Adio is recovering from knee surgery right now, but with a green thumb like his, we're hoping to see him back in action next year!

Brother, can you spare a tomato?

Bill Ugenti is growing smaller-than-a-dime Tidy Treats cherry
Photo Credit: Bill Ugenti

Bill Ugenti is growing smaller-than-a-dime Tidy Treats cherry tomatoes in containers in his Centereach side yard. He also grows Carmel hybrids and Pikes Peaks, both of which he shares with family and friends. He also has a variety of tropical plants, and 10-foot-tall Jerusalem Gold sunflowers, which his grandchildren enjoy hiding under.

Green, but not for long

Jennifer Stolz says she's
Photo Credit: Jennifer Stolz

Jennifer Stolz says she's "getting ready for the challenge!" -- and man, is she! Stolz is growing Dr. Wyche's yellow tomatoes, classic beefsteaks, Paul Robeson heirlooms, and steakhouse hybrids in her Smithtown garden. 

Things are looking up!

Melissa Finno of Bethpage grew this Big Boy
Photo Credit: Melissa Finno

Melissa Finno, of Bethpage, grew this Big Boy tomato in a container in her vegetable garden. She applied Miracle-Gro and lime, but something tells me her positive outlook might have been responsible for the outcome!

Cuter than a tomato

Kate Baker of Locust Valley was smitten with
Photo Credit: Ben Chrzanoski

Kate Baker of Locust Valley was smitten with a surprise visitor caught taking up residence in a strawberry pot on her back deck. Baker's partner, Ben Chrzanoski, snapped this photo on his phone after spotting the baby raccoon peeking over the pot's rim.

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