Tomatoes are among the most popular plants for a home garden. Although the tomato is actually a fruit, it is classified as a vegetable. Tomatoes may be eaten raw, canned for winter food preparation or cooked in various ways that range from sauces and soups to breaded and fried. Tomatoes in the garden take up very little space, yet can grow up to 10 lbs. of fruit per plant.
A tomato plant is 95 percent water. In order for tomato plants to grow and develop fruit, the plants will need lots of water. Water tomato plants with 2 quarts of water daily until the first harvest. Then increase the water to 4 quarts daily for plants producing fruit. You should water with a single, deep soak rather than several light watering sessions. This will encourage tomatoes to develop a deep root system. Add straw mulch around tomatoes to control weeds and hold moisture into the soil.
Staking and Pruning
Staking involves training tomatoes into a vertical growing position by tying the plant to a stake that has been inserted into the ground near the plant. Tomatoes that have been staked are less likely to get diseases than tomato plants that grow along the ground. Tomatoes that are staked should be tied with soft cord that has about ½ inch of slack to allow for stem enlargement. Early season varieties and caged tomatoes do not need pruning. But large, late season varieties that are not grown in cages need to be pruned to control the height of the plant. To prune these tomato plants, remove side shoots and top the plant to control bushy growth and overall height.
Tomatoes are distantly related to potatoes, peppers and eggplants. Because of this, these crops are often affected by the same fungal diseases, such as fusarium or verticillium wilt. Symptoms of wilt in tomatoes include wilting lower leaves. If the plant is attacked before it reaches maturity, the entire plant will die. The fungus that causes these diseases may exist in the soil where a plant was located for several years. Because of this, you should never plant tomatoes in any location that once held peppers, potatoes or eggplant.