Tomatoes are the most popular home garden vegetable, according to Michigan State University Extension. Besides the fruit's versatility, wide variety and taste factors, the plant itself is easy to grow in a wide range of conditions. With the number of varieties available, you can find those suited to your garden for best results. Once you have determined the varieties to grow, a few basic steps will provide you with a bountiful harvest requiring only simple maintenance.
Tomatoes grow in a wide range of soils. Just adding a little organic matter such as dried leaves, compost or manure to the top 4 to 6 inches of soil is all that is needed to provide the nutrients tomatoes will need. Set out young plants, 6 to 8 inches tall after all danger of frost has passed. Dig holes 4 inches deep and spaced 2 to 4 feet apart, depending on the type of tomato and how big it will grow.
Tomatoes do not need much water until they set fruit. Then, because the tomato is such a juicy fruit, it will need lots of water, particularly in hot, dry weather. It is best to water tomato plants early in the morning to avoid water standing on the leaves into the evening. Moist conditions can lead to a number of diseases.
Shortly after planting, provide the growing tomato plant with support that it will need later on. It is easiest to do this while the plant is young. It does not disturb the roots and you will not have to struggle with controlling the vines of a larger plant. A wooden stake driven in the ground near the main stem of the plant or a wire cage will both do an adequate jog. With a stake, you will have to tie the plant to it as it grows. With a cage, you simply arrange the vines through the wires to support the weight of the growing tomatoes.
Other Basic Care
A simple application of mulch around the base of the plant will help control weeds and retain moisture. Fertilizer can be added every 2 to 3 weeks at a rate of 2 to 3 tablespoons per plant. Sprinkle it around the base of the plant. Monitor for signs of disease or insect problems and wait for your tomatoes to ripen. Harvest when fruits have reached full color.
Easy-to-grow varieties would include any that are disease and insect resistant, reducing any additional work for you. University of Illinois Extension recommends several varieties as reliable producers: early season, 'Quick Pick' and 'Champion'; mid-season, 'Celebrity'; large tomatoes, 'Beefmaster' and 'Supersteak'; and Italian or paste tomatoes, 'Viva Italia'.
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