How to grow tomatoes in your home garden.
One of the most popular of all home garden vegetables is the tomato. Originating in Central and South America, the tomato was thought by early American colonists to be poisonous and was not recognized as a useful vegetable until the 1800s. Eaten raw or in innumerable cooked dishes, today the tomato is an almost daily part of the American family diet. When grown as staked plants, tomatoes require a relatively small amount of space, yet are capable of producing 8 to 10 pounds or more of fruit per plant. Tomatoes are low in calories and a good source of vitamin C.
Tomatoes are warm-season plants and should be planted only after danger of frost has passed. Temperature is an important factor in the production of tomatoes, which are particularly sensitive to low night temperatures. Blossom drop can occur in early spring when daytime temperatures are warm, but night temperatures fall below 55 degrees F as well as in summer, when days are above 90 degrees F and nights above 76 degrees F.
Tomatoes can be grown on many different soil types, but a deep, loamy soil, well-drained and supplied with organic matter and nutrients is most suitable. As with most garden vegetables, tomatoes grow best in a slightly acid soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8.
Tomatoes respond well to fertilizer applications, especially phosphorus. Excess nitrogen fertilizer can result in plants with extremely vigorous vine growth but little fruit production. Apply 2-1/2 to 3 pounds of a complete fertilizer, such as 5-10-10, 5-20-20, or 8-16-16 per 100 square feet of garden area. Work the fertilizer into the soil about 2 weeks before planting. An additional side dressing of a nitrogen fertilizer may be desirable after the first cluster of flowers have set fruit.
There are probably more tomato cultivars available to the home gardener than any other garden vegetable. A few will be named here, but it’s worthwhile talking to other local gardeners to find out what other cultivars do well in your area; or just experiment by trying one or two new cultivars each year. When choosing cultivars, keep in mind the different ripening periods.
Tomatoes are usually categorized as early, mid-season or late. Another consideration is whether the tomato cultivar you choose is determinate or indeterminate in growth habit. Determinate (D) tomato plants grow to a certain height and then stop. They also flower and set all their fruit within a relatively short period of time. This is an advantage if the tomatoes are being grown primarily for canning purposes. Indeterminate tomato plants grow, flower, and set fruit over the entire growing season.
Published in: Gardening