The prized tomato, often referred as a fruit, gets planted later with far northern gardens getting this nightshade favorite by the first of June.
Tomatoes are rich in nutrients and may prevent several forms of cancer. Once established tomato plants can produce a bountiful harvest, but like any plant you must be on the lookout for signs of disease.
1. Get prepared. You can start your tomatoes from seed inside and move them outside once eight to 10 inches tall. Leaves should be dark green, the stem healthy and the root system established.
2. Plant on time. You will get the most of your tomatoes when you plant them on time. That “time” factor varies across the country and can be as early as late March to early June. In warmer climates you can plant early, harvest and then plant again for a late season second harvest.
3. Provide plenty of light. Full sunshine is required to help tomatoes grow. Even a small amount of shade can retard the growing process. Choose an area of the yard that is away from the home and trees, with well-drained soil. Although much watering is required, overwatering can lead to blossom end rot.
4. Offer good soil and fertilize. Happily, tomatoes can grow in most any kind of soil. Some varieties thrive better than others under certain soil conditions, with ideal pH levels between 6.0 to 6.8 advises the National Gardening Association. Add lime to your soil if pH is too low; add sulfur if the levels are too high. When fertilizing, go with low amounts of nitrogen, high levels of phosphorous and an average amount of potassium. Your local garden center or state extension service can provide variety-specific guidance.
Tomatos need food – stakes – and care. Shop everything for your tomato garden.
5. Stake and prune with care. You can reduce the chances that your tomatoes will become diseased by staking them. Staked tomatoes increase fruit yield and quality, and can also streamline harvesting. Choose wooden stakes or cylinder cages to hold your budding plants in place. Prune with care or not at all — follow the instructions with your plant variety to get this right.
Further Care, Then Harvest
Tomato problems can arise quickly, something you may miss when on vacation. You will want to ask a neighbor or a friend to keep an eye on your garden while you are away, taking action as needed.
Mulch can eliminate most weeds, but you will still need to pull weeds out to keep insects from taking up residence. Once summer temperatures average 75 degrees Fahrenheit and above, you will see tomato growth take off. If summer is very hot, texture, color and taste might be affected. Remove the last of your tomatoes before the first frost of the season shows up and always store your harvest at room temperature to preserve flavor. Finally, if the last batch of tomatoes has yet to ripen, store these in a bag in a cool room.