For a number of years, we have had our homegrown tomatoes available starting in early July. However, tomatoes are typically not ready in Wisconsin until mid-August. Our tomatoes are not hothouse or hydroponic tomatoes. These are true homegrown tomatoes. So, how do we do it?
First, it is important to know how early tomatoes are grown in cold climates. One method is called hothouse tomatoes. With hothouse tomatoes, plants are grown in pots using potting soil and special nutrient mixtures. The plants will stay in pots their entire life and use whatever is provided for nutrients in the pot.
Hydroponic uses a water and nutrient mixture to grow the plants in a greenhouse. Again, the growth of the plants is dependent on the special nutrient mixtures.
Skelly's has a different method. We have five greenhouses with natural soil floors. The greenhouses are constructed in a normal field and the soil stays the same as if the tomatoes were grown outside. We then plant the tomatoes right in the ground inside these greenhouses. The sides roll up during the day to allow the plants to not overheat and let in bees for pollination. When it is cool at night in the spring, the sides are closed and the plants stay warm so they do not freeze.
Basically, the greenhouses just give the plants a little extra protection from the cold weather allowing for early tomatoes. While the plants do receive some fertilizer, they grow just like an outside plant. Plus, our soil is full of all the great little critters such as worms that help plants grow healthy.
Since our plants are not overloaded with nutrients and special growing soils, our customers have told us time and again that our tomatoes are just as tasty and juicy as any other tomato they could grow. The greenhouses produce great tasting early tomatoes.