When planning a summer garden, remember to include two of the most popular summer fruits: tomatoes and strawberries. Both crops provide juicy, irresistible produce that is easily grown at home and has much more flavor than the often-bland varieties found in grocery stores. Growing tomatoes and strawberries at home requires a few basic steps that will have even the most novice gardener enjoying a bountiful crop of both throughout the summer.
Choose an area to grow your tomatoes that will receive full sunlight all day long. Some partial shade in late afternoon may be tolerated, but tomatoes do best and produce more abundantly in full sun.
Work the soil in early spring as soon as the last frost if over. Rake the ground to loosen, using a shovel if necessary, and remove all large clods and clumps of dirt. Work in several inches of compost to enrich the soil.
Dig a hole for each plant that is three times as deep as the root ball is high and about twice as wide. Space the holes approximately 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart to prevent overcrowding as the plants mature and leave about 3 feet between rows.
Remove all of the leaves from the tomato plant, except the top two sets. Plant the tomato plant deeply in the hole, so the first set of leaves is directly above the ground's surface. Fill in the hole with soil and tamp down well. Planting deeply encourages a stronger root system.
Water each plant well after planting, soaking the soil down to at least 6 inches deep. Use a drip irrigation system for deepest watering and to avoid getting the leaves wet on the plants. Water two to three times a week to keep the soil moist, not allowing the soil to dry out completely in between watering.
Apply a 2-inch layer of mulching material around each plant to help keep weeds down, maintain even moisture in the soil and conserve water. Use chopped leaves, compost or straw.
Apply a balanced fertilizer, 10-10-10, about two weeks after planting. Sprinkle a handful around each plant and water in well. Apply another application once the plant begins to flower and one more once they begin to grow fruit.
Stake each plant to ensure the stems do not break as it grows and begins bearing fruit. Place a 6-foot stake and about 5 inches from each plant, pushing it down into the ground about 1 foot to secure it. Attach each plant to the stakes using pieces of nylon, and re-tie as the plant grows.
Select a growing location for your strawberries that receives full sunlight all day long for best growing results. Allow plenty of room for the strawberry plants to spread out as they grow.
Begin preparing the soil in early spring after all chance of frost has passed and the ground is workable. Rake or shovel the soil to loosen and remove any large clumps of dirt and all large rocks. Add compost to the soil; work the compost in well to provide a nutrient-rich soil.
Dig a hole for each strawberry plant that is twice as wide and deep as the root ball. Space the holes about 1 1/2 feet apart with 3 feet between the rows.
Place a strawberry plant in each hole, planting so the top of the crown or root ball is about 1 inch below the ground's surface. Fill in with soil and tamp down gently.
Water the plant well after planting and provide at least 1 to 2 inches of water each week to keep the soil moist. Use a drip irrigation system or soaker hose for deep watering and to avoid getting the leaves wet.
Apply a balanced fertilizer, 8-8-8, to each plant about two weeks after planting to allow the roots to become somewhat established first. Once the plants begin to flower, apply another application and again when they begin fruiting.
Apply a layer of mulch in the rows only to make a pathway and keep weeds down. Apply about 3 inches of straw, compost or shredded bark.
Pinch off the first year's blooms from the strawberry plants. This will ensure bushier growth and more abundant fruit the following year.