Tomatoes are a widely-grown crop for home gardeners. Not only is it possible to grow perfect tomatoes at home, but gardeners maintain that home-grown tomatoes are sweeter and more flavorful than those purchased at the grocery store. Unlike store-bought tomatoes, the home-grown types can be nurtured and closely cared for by patient gardeners. The careful attention paid to garden tomatoes and their being allowed to ripen on the vine might be responsible for the better taste of the perfect home-grown tomato.
Buy a healthy six-pack of seedlings at the garden store. Look for tomatoes that have no yellow leaves or brown spots. Check the undersides of leaves for insect eggs.
Start organic tomato seeds indoors instead of buying plants, if you prefer, but be sure to start them four to six weeks before planting. Be careful not to over-water seedlings, which promotes damping off and mold. Keep seedling soil moist until planted, but allow it to dry out every few days.
Prepare the soil before transplanting the tomato plants to promote the most growth. Till the soil with a motorized tiller, or double-dig. Double-dig with a shovel by digging a second time below the top level of the freshly broken soil. Amend the soil by adding compost and mixing it in with your tiller or shovel.
Fertilize the soil before planting the tomatoes. Dig well-aged manure, which can be purchased at a gardening store, into the top 6 inches of the soil. Do not use chemically-based fertilizer if you want the tomatoes to be organic. Environmentally friendly fish-emulsion fertilizer is another possible choice.
Know that one key to growing perfect tomatoes is good water management. The water level should always remain even, never being allowed to dry out and never over-saturated. Spread 1 to 2 inches of mulch over the soil at the plant's base to maintain the correct moisture at all times.
Cage your tomatoes instead of staking them to promote strong healthy plants that produce good fruit. The larger the cage, the better support since your tomato plant might grow taller than you expect. Purchase cages at garden stores or make your own out of wire fencing. Wrap in a cylindar shape and tie together with wire or jute.
Do not over-fertilize your tomato plants. If you mixed in mulch and a manure-based or fish emulsion fertilizer upon planting, your plants will be fine. If your soil is poor, use an environmentally friendly fertilizer, but use moderately. High nitrogen levels promote lush foliage, but less fruit.
Control pests by picking off horn worms in the morning or evening. Apply an environmentally-safe insecticide directly to pests as soon as they are spotted, or directly to foliage that shows signs of damage. Remove any tomato vines that show heavy signs of insect or mold damage to keep them from infecting your other tomato plants.
Allow tomatoes to ripen on the vine. Resist the urge to pick your tomatoes to ripen indoors. Unless frost comes too soon to your area, keep a close vigil and pick tomatoes daily as they ripen to ensure only the best-tasting fruit.
About this Author
Bobbie Brewer has been writing since 1990. Her work has appeared in publications and on Web sites including Garden Guides and Trails. Brewer is an international traveler, outdoors enthusiast and has been gardening since 1991. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University, Sacramento.