Homegrown tomatoes fresh from the vine are full of flavor and nutrition. Growing your own tomatoes can be a fun family project with the help of a few simple procedures.
Tomatoes come in two main types: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate type tomatoes are bushy and produce all of their fruit at the same time. Indeterminate tomatoes are vine-like, and produce over a longer period of time. Choose the type and variety that grows well in your climate and is resistant to local pests and diseases.
Choose a sunny location with good drainage. Amend the soil with organic materials such as compost or peat moss. Mix into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil.
Get a soil test and follow the recommendations for pH and fertilizer. If no test is available, use 3/4 cup of lime for each plant. Mix into the soil before planting.
Start seeds indoors four to six weeks before the last frost date or purchase transplants. Look for plants that are compact with healthy foliage.
Plant tomatoes 18 to 24 inches apart in 3- to 4-foot wide rows. Place the transplants in the ground an inch deeper than they were originally planted, burying part of the stem. Firm the soil around the plant.
Water after planting and apply a weak fertilizer solution. Mix three to four tablespoons of 8-8-8 fertilizer into a gallon of water. Use one cup of this starter solution per plant.
Stake or cage tomato plants for support. Insert a 6-foot stake into the ground next to the plant and tie the tomato plant loosely to the stake with cotton twine. Place tomato cages around the plant and drive 3 stakes in around the cage for extra support.
Add a layer of 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch to the bed to help conserve water and discourage weeds.
Water plants in the morning whenever the top of the soil is dry. Remove weeds as soon as they appear by hand pulling or a light hoeing.
Apply one to three tablespoons of 8-8-8 fertilizer as a side-dressing when the first tomatoes begin to set. Repeat this application every four to six weeks. Keep the fertilizer at least 4 inches away from the tomato trunks.
Use a shade cloth in tropical climates. Tomatoes will wilt and die in extreme summer heat unless protected.