Turns out, tomatoes love red. Even when they're green. They aspire to be red, and it seems that red light, when reflected by surrounding red things, will stimulate their growth and production, even if they're exposed to it for just five minutes a day. That's the simple explanation.
Rather than purchase red mulch, I got some red plastic disposable plates and cut a hole in the center for the stem of the tomato plant and secured it at the base with some Earth Staples. So far, I've not seen any improvement in growth over last year, but we're also not experiencing a normal summer - with temperatures or rainfall - so that may account for some of it. But from what I understand, red light is supposed to increase the size and number of tomatoes, so maybe the plant itself won't be any larger.
This summer, we're growing just one plant of 'Mr. Stripey', which as you can guess, is striped! We're growing that one just for fun, and since Romie is the only one who eats fresh tomatoes, one plant will take care of us.
We've also got a few 'Sungold' plants - a cherry tomato known for its sweetness. I first learned of 'Sungold' when reading Stronger Than Dirt by Chris Losee and Kimberly Schaye. It's the story of an urban couple moving to upstate New York and starting their own business growing and selling cut flowers and vegetables. 'Sungold' was a best-seller for them, and I wanted to try them, so I bought some seeds from Kitchen Garden Seeds. Romie concurs - he thinks they're yummy, so I saved seeds from last year's crop and planted them again this year.
Now you know.
*Tomato photo from Wikipedia Commons