How to Grow Tomatoes
Tomatoes are the most popular home-grown vegetable in the country. Follow these instructions for a bumper crop of the delicious fruit.
Most gardeners elect to grow tomatoes from transplants rather than seed. There are two main types of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate plants are shorter, bushier and produce fruit that ripens mostly at the same time. Indeterminate types are taller, more vine-like, and produce fruit over the entire season. The varieties of tomato plants are endless, with numerous sizes, shapes and colors. When selecting a plant, choose those with thick stems, dark green leaves, and no tomatoes or blossoms.
Tomato plants require plenty of sun, at least 6 to 8 hours a day for best results. The soil should be well-drained and enriched with a good amount of organic matter, such as compost. Work a slow-release 5-10-10 fertilizer into the garden bed before planting. Position tomato cages or drive stakes at the site of each planting location. Doing so after planting can harm the plants.
After the fear of frost has passed dig holes at the base of the stakes or cages. Tomatoes have the unusual ability to grow roots from their stems, so planting them deeply makes them sturdier. Remove the bottom leaves from the plant and place into holes deep enough to come up to that spot. Cover with soil and water well. If the seedlings are tall enough, carefully tie the stems to the stakes.
Mulching tomatoes is critical to their health. The mulch acts as a barrier between the plant and soil-borne diseases. Add a generous layer of mulch around the plants, being careful to keep it away from the tomato stems.
New plants need to be watered every day for the first few weeks. Continue to stake and support the plants as they grow taller. Apply liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks for optimum production. As tomato plants grow they produce new vines that sprout between two older vines. Prune these sprouts with clean scissors to concentrate the plant’s energy. Patrol the plants frequently for pests, removing and destroying them as soon as possible.
When tomatoes fully ripen, they release rather easily from the vine. Gently grab the fruit, twist and pull. Be sure to pick all ripe and overripe fruit from the vine to prevent pests, diseases and molds. To ripen green tomatoes, place dry fruits in a paper bag and store in a warm place.