Doug Yozamp, of St. Cloud, spends a lot of time in his backyard growing tomatoes. It is a labor of love for Yozamp, who took over the tomatoes after his dad died about two decades ago.
The 71-year-old and father of two is a retired construction worker who currently has 158 tomato plants growing in pots, which can produce nearly 8,700 tomatoes.
“I have two seasons: spring for planting and fall for harvesting,” he said of his lot, which is about 12,000 square feet, with a third devoted to tomatoes. “In between that, I’m the caretaker.”
Big Boy, Celebrity, Whopper, Brandywine, Lemon Boy and Early Girl are just some of the varieties of tomatoes Yozamp grows and cans. He gives away the rest to the Poor Clares.
“I like the tomato juice,” he said of his solitary work in tomato cultivation. “I specifically raise them just to can juice. I use the juice in my spaghetti and my sauces and stuff like that.”
Yozamp said he spends a minimum of two hours a day attending to his tomato pots, but it is usually more like four hours a day.
“I have to water them,” he said. “The bigger they get, the taller they get, the more water they need, and that means the more time I have to spend.”
Yozamp said the first year he attempted to grow a large amount of tomatoes in his backyard in 1996, the water company paid him a visit because officials thought he had a water leak.
“My mother was looking out of the window because that’s where he had the garden,” he said of his dad’s death. “And she said, ‘Well, it looks like we won’t have a garden next year,’ and I said, ‘No, mom, we will,’ and bought a whole bunch of tomatoes because that was my dad’s big deal.”
That first year of tomato growing, Yozamp bought too many tomatoes – 178 tomatoes, in fact – and there was not enough room in his backyard garden, so he started using pots to grown them.
“I wasn’t going to throw them away, so I planted them, and I took up every square inch and had almost half of the yard filled up, and they grew like crazy. I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “My father from heaven blessing them, and I had bees like you wouldn’t believe.”
Yozamp said his secret to growing tomatoes, which he does to carry on his father’s legacy, is “constant attention.”
“You have to pay attention to the plant. You have to water it every day. You have to know when it needs it. You have to know the moisture content. I have a moisture meter that I stick in the pots … but I’m getting good enough now that I just stick my finger in there and can tell,” he said.
Yozamp has read books about tomatoes but has no formal training as a gardener or a farmer.
“My green thumb started after my dad passed away,” he said.