Tomatoes are incredibly easy to grow, and if you're a
tomato lover, the reward of fresh tomatoes straight from the garden, will be
one that you will certainly appreciate.
In cooler climates, or just to
make sure that you'll get a head start on the season, and have a constant
supply, start your plants indoors, under lights, with a minimum temperature of
60 degrees for germination.
8 weeks before the last frost, plant seeds in three or four inch pots, with two
or three seeds per pot, and remove all but the strongest, when they are about
4-6 inches tall.
Allow the little guys to continue growing, one in each
pot, until all danger of frost has passed, and then harden them off by placing
them outside for a few hours each day for a week or so, and then transplant
them to the garden.
You'll want each plant to have a 1 1/2 or 2 foot
area all of it's own, so that they don't crowd each other, and you'll want to
plant them up to the first set of true leaves, so as to encourage root
Avoid over watering at all costs, especially once fruit begins
to appear, as it will cause the fruit to split. Erratic watering will cause the
same problem, so be sure you are consistant.
Over fertilizing will cause
excessive leaf growth, at the cost of less friut, as well as loss of flavor.
Excess nitrogen fertilizer can result in plants with extremely vigorous vine
growth but little fruit production.
If heavy rains are expected, be
prepared to protect tomato plants so that they don't end up getting too much
water, or having the flowers blown off by heavy winds.
You'll also want
to remove any side shoots that appear, leaving only the main shoot. When the
plant reaches the top of it's support, topping it will cause it to start
bushing out, and creating new branches
As fruit begins to develop, the
plant will benefit from the removal of any leaves that hide or shade the fruit,
and some of the lower branches that aren't producing fruit can be removed to
increase airflow around the plant.
Be sure to do your watering in the
early morning, so that the leaves will dry quickly, so as to help prevent mold
and fungus from developing.
You can also lay a bed of straw or grass
clippings around the base of the plants so that the fruits won't lay on the
ground and rot.
When grown as
staked plants, tomatoes require a relatively small amount of space, yet are
capable of producing 8 to 10 pounds or more of fruit per plant. Tomatoes are
low in calories and a good source of vitamin C.
There are probably more
tomato cultivars available to the home gardener than any other garden
Tomatoes are usually categorized as early, mid-season or
Another consideration is whether the tomato cultivar you choose
is determinate or indeterminate in growth habit.
Determinate (D) tomato
plants grow to a certain height and then stop. They also flower and set all
their fruit within a relatively short period of time. This is an advantage if
the tomatoes are being grown primarily for canning purposes.
Indeterminate tomato plants grow, flower, and set fruit over the entire
Another characteristic to look for when choosing tomato
cultivars is disease resistance. Many cultivar names are followed by one or
more letters indicating resistance to Verticillium wilt (V), Fusarium wilt (F),
or nematodes (N). Disease resistance can be an important consideration,
especially if you have experienced these problems with tomatoes in the past.
Due to their long growing season and temperature requirements, tomatoes
should be set out as transplants.
When purchasing tomato transplants,
choose those with straight, sturdy stems about the thickness of a pencil. They
should have 4 to 6 young true leaves, no blossoms or fruit, and be free of
insect pests and diseases.
Plants in individual containers or cell
packs experience little or no transplant shock and become established quickly.
Tomato plants will develop roots along the stem and may be set deeply at
transplanting with the first set of leaves near the soil