The Mortgage Lifter Tomato was developed in the 1930s by radiator repairman, M.C. "Radiator Charlie" Byles. He successfully crossed the four largest tomato breeds he could find to create the Mortgage Lifter. The juicy, mild tomatoes weighed between 2 1/2 and 4 pounds. People drove from 200 miles away to buy seedlings for the popular plant, and Byles paid off his $6,000 mortgage in only 6 years with the proceeds. To successfully grow Mortgage Lifters, protect them from chilly nights and provide consistent, slow watering throughout the season.
Things You'll Need
- Mortgage lifter seeds or plants
- Potting mix
- Tomato cage
- Plastic gallon milk jugs
- Hand pruning shears
Plant Mortgage Lifter seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Put potting mix in pots or transplanting flats. Plant the seeds 1/4 inch deep, with one seed in each pot. Place in a warm, sunny location and water every day, or as needed. The soil should be moist, but not soggy. Put your finger in it to check the moisture level before watering.
Harden off the plants. When the seedlings have 2 to 4 leaves and the last chance of frost has passed, move the plants to a sheltered outdoor location. This allows them to adjust slowly to the outside climate.
Plant your Mortgage Lifter tomatoes. Dig holes in your garden soil with a trowel. Carefully lift the seedlings out of their pots and place in the holes. Fill in the soil around the plants with your hands and pat it down. Plant them 18 to 36 inches apart.
Water the plants thoroughly and slowly for 15 to 20 minutes. Mortgage Lifter tomatoes need slow, even moisture throughout the growing season. Check them daily by sticking your finger in the soil. If it's dry 2 inches down, water for 20 minutes with a sprinkler. Don't over-water your Mortgage Lifter tomatoes.
Protect your plants. Mortgage Lifter tomatoes need warm, sheltered growing conditions. Cut the bottoms off of plastic gallon milk jugs. Place the milk jugs over young seedlings to protect them from chilly nights. Remove the jugs as the days become consistently warm and plants get bigger.
Fertilize your tomatoes. Apply granular fertilizer made for vegetables twice during the growing season. Spread the fertilizer according to package directions on the soil and hoe in lightly. Do not get fertilizer on the plant leaves or roots. Water the soil for 20 minutes after applying fertilizer.
Cage your tomatoes. Mortgage Lifter tomatoes are indeterminate tomatoes. In addition to heavy fruit, they produce heavy, tangled vines. Place a heavy-duty tomato cage over the plant when it is still young. As the plant grows, the cage will support it and keep the vines off the ground. This prevents disease and helps the tomatoes ripen.
Prune your tomatoes. Mortgage Lifter tomatoes produce lots of leaves and branches. Prune back any small branches that grow between the main stem and the strong main branches. Extra leaves divert energy from producing tomatoes. Pruning these leaves allows the plant to produce more fruit. In late summer, before the first frost, prune back the top 1/3 of the plant to allow the sun to reach the tomatoes.
Harvest your Mortgage Lifter tomatoes when they are pinkish-red. Twist to pull them from the stem.
- "The Garden Primer"; Barbara Damrosch; 1988
- Photo Credit tomatoes image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com