Tomatoes are not only one of the easiest vegetables to grow, but they're also healthy and delicious. Various tomato plants produce different sizes and shapes of tomatoes, ranging from small cherry tomatoes--commonly included in vegetable salads--to large beefsteak tomatoes used often in sandwiches. Fruit from different tomato plants range in colors from red, pink orange, and yellow to multi-colored.
Many different types of tomato plants exist. Dwarf tomatoes, slightly larger than cherry tomatoes, are popular examples that have tight roots and compact vines. They're often grown in small containers or hanging baskets. The tomato plant most grown by home gardeners is the indeterminate tomato. These plants usually grow throughout the summer. Paste tomato plants yield tomatoes that are ideal for canning tomatoes. San Marzano tomato plants produce tomatoes known for making pasta sauce.
Early spring is usually the best time to grow tomatoes. However, caution must be used in ensuring the last frost is over. Under proper care the average full-sized tomato transplant can be grown in about 6-8 weeks, depending on the type, with larger tomatoes taking longer to grow than smaller varieties.
Tips for Planting Tomato Plants
Planting tomato plants in organized rows of all tomatoes, followed by a row of another type of vegetable plant is a calling card for pests. Rather than planting tomato plants in neat rows, intersperse them with other vegetable plants such as carrots. According to Clean Air Gardening.com, planting with "companion plants" helps cut down on pests invading a garden.
Many different insect pests attack tomato plants from the time they first appear in a seedbed through harvesting time. Tomato moth caterpillars, appearing from late spring to early summer, are typical pests that are brown or green with a light yellow streak along the body. Leaves should be checked for eggs to prevent hatching and caterpillars eating tomatoes. Some other common pests include flea beetles, aphids, slugs and spider mites.
Most tomato plant diseases are caused by adverse weather. Although there are many tomato diseases, only a few affect a particular area so check with a local county extension service to learn the diseases most prone for a particular region. Fusarium and verticillim wilt are the two worst diseases afflicting tomato plants. Plants infected with these fungal diseases show wilting and yellowing on older leaves around midsummer. Then the yellowing progresses up the stem, ultimately killing the plant. No controls have been found to be effective in controlling either fungal disease.
Overwatering can cause tomato plants to fail as it causes soggy soil resulting in seeds rotting. According to Georgia Drought.org, tomatoes do best with an even water supply. Whenever a water supply gets turned off or is on all the time, problems will develop. Overfertilizing can also hurt tomato plants, causing them to die or stop growing, besides growing too quickly into spindly plants.