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What Would Life Be Like
Without Home Grown Tomatoes?

By (uncredited)

When growing tomatoes it is best to start with transplants. You can get some tomato starts from your local farmers market, or start them yourself at home. Once you have your starts, only plant the strongest ones. Bury the starts down deep in average or better garden soil. They thrive with lots of sun, and when it's between 70-75 F, so put them in the ground when there is no chance of frost. Water them really well after you plant them, and give them a good soaking once a week if it gets too dry. Water them at the roots, not on the leaves, in the morning or evening. After a good soaking, mulch your tomatoes heavily to help retain the moisture. Mulch also helps keep the fruit that may be touching the ground from rotting.

If you are growing tomato varieties that are short and compact, just mulch around the plants and pick your tomatoes as they ripen. The tomato varieties that just keep vining and sprawling can be staked, trellised, caged, or grown up along fences. Loosely tie the plants to their support = system if necessary to keep them of the ground. These vining varieties can also be pruned to help focus their energy on growing fruits and not vines. Prune the suckers that appear between the main stem and the leaf axils. Keep only two or three vines for the biggest fruit production.

Never plant your tomatoes in the same spot they were in last year, or you are asking for pest problems. Tomatoes like to be in slightly acidic soil, pH. 6-7. They also need a lot of trace elements like calcium, which can be provided by ground up egg shells. Companion planting chives, African Marigolds, onions, parsley, asparagus, nasturtiums, basil, or carrots with your tomatoes will help create beneficial environments for them. Don't plant potatoes and fennel near your plants, because they are not complimentary.

I like to grow different varieties of tomatoes for different reasons. I grow lots of paste tomatoes (Polish Past) for canning homemade salsas and sauces. I grow less of the slicer varieties (Early Girl and Big Boy), but enough to have tomato sandwiches in the summer. The cherry tomato varieties (Tiny Tims) are usually just sprouting up out of the backyard compost pile, and grow without much attention.