Growing Tomatoes

Think of all the delicious things you can make with homegrown tomatoes – sandwiches, salads, pizza and pasta. Or maybe you’d prefer a just-sliced tomato with a little salt sprinkled on top. No matter how you like them, you should know tomatoes are loaded with healthy antioxidants such as lycopene, vitamin C, and vitamin A. They’re proven to lower death rates from heart disease and cancer. “Plus growing your own tomatoes, can help you save money at the grocery store and is the best way to get that fresh, home-grown flavor,” says said Lance Walheim, co-author of the Sunset Vegetable book and gardening expert for the BioAdvanced™ brand.

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Tomatoes are one of the easiest and most rewarding vegetable plants you can grow. Here are some simple tips to help get you started.

First, Determine A Site – Garden Or Container

Whichever you choose, make sure your site is sunny. Tomatoes need about eight hours of direct sunlight in rich, well-drained soil. In the garden, tomatoes root deeply, so turn garden soil to a depth of at least 24 inches and work in some composted manure.

Tomatoes can also thrive in containers. You’ll have best success with a pot at least 15 inches wide and deep. Avoid dark-colored plastic pots. They absorb sunlight, which heats soil and cooks roots. Instead, try wood, pulp or glazed terra-cotta pots (the glaze prevents water from evaporating through the sides). Best of all, tomatoes grown in pots ripen sooner than their in-ground cousins. Click here for more information about Growing Tomatoes And Peppers In Containers.

Pick A Type Of Plant

Determinate, or bush varieties, reach 3 to 5 feet. Most fruits on plants of the same variety mature within a month or two of each other, so harvest period is condensed.

Indeterminate varieties produce tomatoes along the stems throughout the growing season. They need supports at least 5 feet tall.

Choose A Variety

It’s amazing how many exciting varieties of tomatoes are available. There are not just early, mid-season and late varieties, but different sizes, shapes, and colors ranging from black to green to yellow, even white!

Be sure to choose varieties that grow well in your area. Local nursery or garden center experts, experienced gardeners, or your cooperative extension office will have suggestions. Or visit the Tomato Growers Supply Company website at tomatogrowers.com. They know tomatoes like no one else.

You can choose from small cherry tomatoes to big, juicy beefsteaks, paste varieties like Roma that are perfect for sauces, or heirloom varieties with great, old-fashion flavor. Click here to more about Heirloom Tomatoes.

Here are a few other varieties that have caught our attention:

  • Honey Hybrid – it produces sweet, rich-flavored, 8-ounce fruit all season
  • Solar Fire – this heat-tolerant variety developed by the University of Florida has excellent disease resistance
  • Believe It Or Not – this fruit can weigh up to 2 pounds and possess excellent flavor
  • Copia – a beautiful bicolored tomato with delicious yellow flesh and red strips
  • Aunt Ruby’s German Green – this heirloom is a pale green beefsteak, tinted yellow and pink with spicy flavor

Planting

  • Seeds should be grown indoors in containers in a well-lighted area 6-8 weeks before planting outdoors.
  • Transplants should be planted after the danger of frost or protected with plastic covers.
  • Dig a deep hole. Tomatoes are one of the few vegetables you plant deeply. Bury about two-thirds of the plant, removing the bottom 2-4 leaves. Roots will emerge where leaves were attached.
  • Water well and do not let the plants dry out. To test for moisture, stick your finger in the soil. If it’s dry 3 to 4 inches deep, then water. One inch of water will wet sandy soil a foot deep and clay soil about 5 inches deep.
  • Organic mulch helps keeps the weeds out and conserves moisture. It helps in containers too.
  • Apply a tomato fertilizer with nitrogen and calcium when plants are young. Calcium is vital as it helps fruit ripen successfully. Cut back as your plants get close to flowering or you’ll encourage foliage at the expense of fruit.

Control Destructive Pests And Diseases

Keep an eye out for Aphids, Mites, Leafhoppers, Mealybugs and Tomato Hornworms. These are the kind of pests that can damage or destroy your tomatoes. Vegetable & Garden Insect Srpay kills harmful insects on contact. Be sure to read and follow all label directions.

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