Thursday, May 13, 2010

Learn the Basics of Growing Tomatoes

If a rose by any other name is still a rose, then a tomato by any other botanical classification is still a vegetable. Scientifically the tomato is classified as a fruit, but we, as home vegetable gardeners, will forever refer to this great tasting item as a vegetable.

The tomato is so popular in the home vegetable garden that it nearly doubles the next most popular item, the cucumber. Tomatoes are extremely popular because they have so many uses when it comes to eating them. You can add them to salads, soups, make sauces and stews out of them or simply slice them up and add them to a sandwich.

In spite of their popularity many home vegetable gardeners neglect the basics which could help them increase their harvest and grow tastier tomatoes. Here are some basic growing facts to keep in mind when you start your tomatoes.

Start Indoors
Here in New Jersey my “drop into the ground” date for tomatoes is June first. Some people start earlier, but I want to make sure there is absolutely no chance of frost. Frost will destroy your tomatoes. In order for you to take advantage of planting on your “drop into the ground date”, start the tomatoes indoors. Tomatoes are one of the best vegetables to start indoors. As long as they receive plenty of sun, and a constant warm temperature, they will grow well. I give my tomato plants six weeks of indoor time before I take them outdoors. This ensures that they are a larger, sturdier and healthier plant, which increases their chance for survival.

Full Sun
There are some genetically engineered tomato plants out there that will tolerate partial sun, but where is the fun in that? If you choose a typical tomato plant then it will require full sun. That means sun from the time the sun rises until it sets in the evening. Do not pick a spot in your yard; porch or balcony that only receives a little bit of sun. You will really put a damper on your tomato harvest.

Remove the Bottom Leaves
The bottom most leaves of your tomato plants really serves no purpose once they, your tomato plants, grow to be a foot and a half to two feet tall. They simply use up nutrients that could otherwise be going to parts of the plant that really need it. Once your tomato plants reach the height previously mentioned, remove the bottom leaves. Use a pair of scissors to cut them off by the stem.

Prop Them Up
Tomato plants have weak stems and although you could just let them fall over and grow that way, by doing this you increase the chance that the tomatoes will develop blossom end rot. Invest in some tomato cages, tomato stakes or build your own contraption where you can prop up your tomato plants and keep them off of the ground.

Chances are you are like the other 74% of home vegetable gardeners in the world and you will have one or two tomato plants growing this season. Give your tomato plants every chance possible to produce for you plenty of fruit by following these tips. You know the old saying, take care of them, and they will take care of you.

About the Author
Mike is the administrator for the largest vegetable gardening group on Facebook and the Seeds of the Month Club. You can now join the Seeds of the Month Club risk-free for three months.

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