excerpted from Cyclopedia of American Horticulture, 1903
Tomatoes Under General Field Conditions. – Tomatoes should be started in hotbeds. To make the beds, select a sheltered place on the south side of a bank or erect some shelter on the north side from where the hotbed is to be made. Dig a hole about a foot deep, 8 feet wide and as long as needed; 18 feet long will give room enough to grow plants for twelve acres of Tomatoes. Use fresh stable manure; cart it out in a pile and let it lay three or four days, then work it over until it gets good and hot, then put it into the hole prepared for it, 8×18 feet, about 18 inches thick. Then place the frame, 6 x 16 feet, on the manure; that will leave one foot of manure outside of the frame; by this means the heat will be just as great at the edge of the bed as it is in the middle. Then place 4 or 5 inches of dirt on the manure and let it lie for a couple of days to allow the dirt to get warm. The sash is put on as soon as the dirt is placed. When the dirt is warm, rake it over to get it nice and fine, then sow the seed in drills which are made about 2 inches apart by a marker. Sow the seed by hand; the sash is then put on close to the dirt; at the lower end of the bed the frame is made 3 inches higher at the end next to the bank so the water will run off; the bed is banked up all around so no cold can get in. In this way the bed will be kept warm and the seed will soon come up. After the plants are up nicely, they will need some air that they may become hardened and grow stocky. Ventilating can be done by raising the bottom of the sash and putting a block under them while the sun is hot; but do not neglect to lower them at night. When the plants are four or five weeks old, and about 2 inches high, transplant the first into a bed that has a little warm manure in the bottom and 4-6 inches of dirt on top. Use the sash over this first bed, as the weather is quite cold at night. Do this in order to get the early plants in the field. Transplant the remainder into coldframes and use coverings or shutters made of boards. Transplant all in rows 6 inches apart and 2 inches in the row. Keep them in these beds until planted in the open fields. When there is a frost in the morning and plants are large, take off the covering early in the morning so that the frosty air may harden the plants while they are in the bed. Sometimes the plants are in blossom before they can be set in the fields. Never pinch a plant back. A good-sized plant is from 4-6 inches high and stocky; the stronger the plant the earlier will be the crop. The main point is to get the plant strong before it is set in the field, then it will not stop growing, while a slender, weak plant will not start to grow as soon. Transplanting the plants from the sowing bed into the cold beds helps the plants, and they will produce earlier fruit than those set in the fields from the hotbeds. Take them up with a trowel that all of the dirt possible may go with them from the bed into the field. In case the ground is dry, take a large box with clay in it and make a regular mush, dip the plant into it, then put the plant in the box. One can leave them there for a day or two before setting them in the field.
Prepare the ground about the same way that farmers prepare corn ground. Have it well harrowed, then mark it off 4×6 or 5×6, and when the ground is very rich 6×6 feet, and set the plant in the cross. Use the hands to fill the dirt around the plant. Set the plants that are transplanted under sash first, as they are the oldest and strongest. These can be risked in the field first; then fill that bed with plants again, as plants may be needed for replanting in case cutworms or other causes destroy some of the first setting.
Never put manure under the plants set in the field. The best way to manure the ground is a year before, for some other crop, such as cabbage, potatoes or pickles; then you can grow Tomatoes several years after. Never put Tomatoes in ground prepared with fresh manure, for the manure burns the roots and causes trouble, and the flavor of the Tomatoes is not so good. As soon as a field of Tomatoes is planted, go over the area with hoes and draw up some soil to the plant, and fill in around the plant with earth so it will not get dry into the roots. After the plants begin to take root, go through the field both ways with the cultivator, and keep this up during the season. One cannot cultivate them too much. Some farmers think that because there are no weeds growing around the plants they need very little cultivating, but this is a mistake. When the season is dry they need more cultivation in order to keep up the moisture.
Half-bushel baskets are very useful in picking Tomatoes. Our own practice is to take about six rows in a piece and throw the vines of a row around so that we can drive a team through the field. If the rows are 6 feet apart a team can go through without destroying many Tomatoes. In that way one can pick more Tomatoes in a short time because he does not have to carry them so far. Have boxes alongside where the team will go and the Tomatoes are carried to these bushel boxes, and when the team comes are loaded and driven to the factory.
– H.J. HEINZ Co.