What vegetable garden is complete without a few tomato plants? American gardeners are rediscovering the virtues of traditional heirloom tomato varieties, which were bred for superior taste, rather than for uniformity and shelf life as store-bought tomatoes typically are. Some of the choicest cultivars were developed in Texas by early settlers including Amish, German and Mexican immigrants. These Texas tomato varieties are easily grown and deserve a place in every summer garden for juicy, delicious homegrown tomatoes all summer long.
Select large fruiting tomato cultivars that do well in your climate and growing season. Good Texas heirloom choices are "Brandywine," "Cherokee Purple," "Boxcar Willie" and "Mortgage lifter." Purchase healthy, 1-gallon size starts from a reputable local nursery.
Prepare a bed in a sheltered location that receives full sun all day long. Dig down at least 2 feet and loosen the soil, removing any large rocks.
Amend the soil with 1 cubic yard of organic compost per 10 square feet of garden bed area. Mix the compost and soil well with a shovel, then make individual planting holes, spaced at least 3 feet apart. Place 1 cup of soft rock phosphate in the bottom of each planting hole.
Remove the leaves on the bottom one third of the young tomato plants and plant them deeply in the prepared holes, when all danger of frost has passed. Bury half the stem of each plant in the soil to promote heavy root growth. Place a sturdy wire tomato cage around each plant.
Water the plants well at planting and irrigate deeply about every week to ten days so the soil never dries out. Be careful not to overwater plants with maturing tomatoes because this can cause fruit to split open.
Feed your plants with a foliar fertilizer when the first fruit forms. Look for seaweed- and molasses-based foliar sprays at your garden center, which work especially well. Give the plants a second dose of foliar fertilizer when the fruit just begins to ripen.