Rare is a vegetable garden without at least a couple of tomato plants. Perhaps this is because a fresh, sun-ripened tomato is one of the premier culinary treats of spring and summer, and is relatively easy to grow. With a modest amount of oversight and care, your plants can produce beautiful tomatoes that are a flavorful and healthy addition to your summer table.
Plant your tomatoes in full sun. Most fruit-producing plants require at least seven to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. Also, allow at least 1 1/2 feet between each plant, and keep rows 3 to 4 feet apart.
Feed your plants with a balanced fertilizer. This means one that has similar amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Avoid fertilizers designed for use on lawns, opting instead for those designed for tomatoes. Follow label directions to avoid overfeeding.
Shortly after planting, stake or cage your plants. These devices, available at most garden centers, provide support to growing plants with heavy fruit. If using stakes, drive one about 12 inches into the ground beside each plant, using string or strips of nylon to secure the plant to the stake. Cages are placed over the plant with their bottom stakes pushed firmly into the soil. As the plant grows, the stems will rest on the surrounding wires.
Water your tomato plants generously. The soil around the plant should be soaked to a depth of 6 to 8 inches every seven days. Mulch around the base of your plant can help maintain moist soil, especially during the hottest weeks of summer.
Observe your tomato plants frequently to defend against insect damage. While some insect activity is practically inevitable in your garden, a keen eye can protect your plants and their produce from significant damage. If a particular type of insect seems to be causing harm, contact your local agricultural extension agent for advice regarding organic controls or chemical pesticides.