Growing Tomatoes

tomatoes

Growing your own tomatoes can be a satisfying hobby that adds fresh produce to your table. Nothing bought in a store can match the taste of your own freshly picked home-grown tomatoes.

These plants are relatively easy to grow but you must take some precautions.

Preparing

Before you start growing anything it’s a good idea to test your soil. You can buy tests at a local hardware store or nursery. For tomatoes a ph of around 6.5 is best.

Tomato seedlingsThere are many varieties of tomatoes. Do your research or talk to a local nursery so you can choose the types of tomatoes that grow best in your climate. Some varieties deal with heat better than others. Trying to fight your climate will usually result in frustration and a poor crop yield.

Some tomato plants provide a harvest all at one time; and others will have produce over a period of time. Choose the type that best suits your needs.

Choose your planting site carefully. Tomatoes need eight hours of sunlight a day and will not do well in shaded areas. The site should drain properly and not retain standing water.

To give your plants a healthy start, till the soil and add organic material before planting. Around two to three inches into the top six inches of soil is good.

If you use seeds instead of buying plants; then you’ll want to start the seeds inside a few weeks in advance of planting.

Planting

Tomatoes should be planted in late spring or early summer.

Dig a trench and place the plants on their sides with only the leaves remaining above the dirt.

Tomatoes must be staked and cannot be left to lie on the ground. You’ll need to have the stakes in place as soon as the tomatoes are planted. Stakes can be wire or wood.

For the most successful plants, add fertilizer and compost to the holes before you add the plants.

Plants should be two to three feet apart to give them plenty of room to expand. Make sure they are planted with 2/3 of the stem in the ground.

Spread mulch around the plants to help cut down on weeds and to hold in moisture.

tomato

A pair of healthy ripe tomatoes. Picture courtesy of tomatodlaren.

Watering

Water your tomato plants at least an inch every week. When the ground feels dry, you should water.

Always water tomatoes at the base of the plants and not on the leaves. Plants should be allowed a little time to dry out before watering again. It’s best if they are kept moist but never soggy. In dry climates you can use mulch to help hold in moisture. In cooler climates mulching helps keep the soil warm.

Harvesting

Pick tomatoes as soon as they’re ripe. They will be fully red and feel firm. This relieves the stress of the plant carrying too much weight. Keep branches and withered leaves pruned away. This will allow the plant to produce more tomatoes.  A healthy tomato will produce a lot of fruit and before you know it you are going to have more tomatoes than you know what to do with.

Tomatoes retain taste better if they’re kept on a counter and not in the refrigerator.

To keep the soil healthy it’s a good idea to alternate planting other vegetables every three year. Tomato plants suffer from many diseases and alternating with other crops helps minimize the risk. Alternate with lettuce or beans.

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