There are many reasons why the tomato is considered one of the most popular plant choices among gardeners. Tomatoes require little maintenance, they thrive in gardens, in pots and even grow hanging upside-down. Best of all, they produce a fruit that has a multitude of uses. Growing your own tomato crop is relatively easy; simply provide your plants with the proper growing conditions and you'll be eating your own homegrown tomatoes in no time.
The tomato plant thrives in fertile, deep, loamy soil that has a high content of organic matter. Soil should be slightly acidic with a pH balance that ranges between 6.2 and 6.8. Most garden soils are adequate as long as they are well-drained. Raised beds are recommended for areas where soil stays soggy. Use a fertilizer that is designed specifically for tomato plants and follow the manufacturer's instructions--better yet, shovel compost around plants every other week.
Tomatoes thrive in the warm, sunny areas of your garden. The tomato plant requires at least eight hours of full sunlight each day. Less exposure will cause plants to become spindly and leggy and they will produce very few ripe tomatoes. Sunlight is essential to the health and well-being of the tomato plant and is necessary to ensure the production of a high-yielding crop.
Tomato plants require regular and thorough watering, especially during long periods of drought. If you've planted your tomatoes in containers, water them daily. Allowing plants to become dry will deprive your tomato of much-needed calcium, which promotes growth. Improper watering leaves your tomatoes susceptible to blossom-end rot, a brown spot found on the bottom of the fruit. Keep plants extra moist by surrounding them with mulch.
Tomato plants that grow upright or are staked or caged should be planted approximately 2 feet apart. Space sprawling plants, those left to lay on the ground, at least 3 to 5 feet away from each another. Plants that are too close to one another will produce fewer tomatoes and are prone to diseases, as their foliage often stays damp. If garden space is limited, grow your tomatoes in containers. Choose large containers that provide good drainage and place them in the sunny areas of your deck, patio or porch.
Pruning is optional for tomato plants. You can choose not to prune and your plants will flourish. If you do decide to prune, remove only the side shoots that come off of the main shoot. Don't remove branches and stems from mature plants, as they both protect the fruit from sun scald. Pruning your tomato plant keeps it manageable, which is helpful if you've got limited garden space. The size of the tomato is affected by pruning--you'll see a larger fruit on a pruned plant and smaller fruits on those that have not been pruned. Plants that are pruned may produce less crops. The choice is yours--either way your plant will thrive.