There are five types of tomatoes available: cherry, medium, plum, beefsteak, and heirloom. The first four are classified by size, while heirloom varieties have rich tastes, unusual shapes and unique colors that are not found with conventional varieties. All varieties are easy to grow and care for as long as their basics needs are met: plentiful sunshine, humus-rich soil, a steady, even supply of water, and sturdy support.
Planting and Care of Tomatoes
Prepare the planting bed by digging in plenty of compost or manure (at least 12 inches), as tomatoes grow best in humus-rich, well-drained soil. Warm the soil to 60 degrees F. with black or clear plastic, two weeks before planting.
Plant seedlings in the garden two weeks after the last spring frost, spaced 4 feet apart, in soil that has been thoroughly warmed. Encourage growth of deep, drought resistant roots by picking off all flowers and fruits before planting and setting the seedlings in deeply, as roots will grow along the buried stem. Plant in full sun to help them thrive, but protect them from blazing heat or gusting winds.
Protect seedlings from cutworms by placing 4 to 5 inches of cardboard tube around the seedlings after planting.
Water regularly and keep soil evenly moist to prevent cracking fruits.
Set cages around plants or stake them for support, gently guiding stems and tying lightly with soft cloth ties as they grow. Check regularly for small side shoots emerging from stem junctions. Pinch them off between the thumb and fingers when they are about ¼ of an inch long. Pinch off the top when the plant has developed four flower bunches to allow energy to be expended into developing fruit rather than obtaining more height.
Check regularly for small side shoots emerging from stem junctions. Pinch them off between thumb and fingers when they are about ¼ inch long. Pinch off the top when the plant has developed four flower bunches to allow energy to be expended into developing fruit rather than obtaining more height.
Spread compost around plant base in mid-summer to feed the plants.
Harvest fruits after they have fully ripened on the vine. Pick all fruits and ripen indoors at room temperature when frost threatens.
Disease and Pest Control
Handpick hornworms a soon as they are spotted. These large, green caterpillars feed on the fruit and leaves. Holes in the fruits or chewed leaves are a sign of their presence. Plant crops that repel tomato hornworm, such as borage, basil or petunias as companion to the tomatoes.
Add calcium to the soil to prevent fruits with the brown leathery bottoms of blossom end rot.
Mulch the tomato plants to prevent soil-born fungus leaf spot disease from splashing onto them. Leaves sprinkled with tiny, dark spots with light centers as soon as you see them. If left, they will shrivel and die, and the fungus can damage fruits, as well. Spray any affected plants with compost tea on both tops and undersides of leaves.
Plant attractant plants, such as nasturtiums, poppies, and marigolds to attract beneficial insects that eat aphids and other tomato pests.
Things You Will Need
- Tomato seedlings
- 4- to 5-inch lengths of cardboard tubing
- Tomato cages or stakes
- Soft cloth ties
- Companion plants (optional)
- Make hot caps to collect heat in cooler weather by cutting the bottom off a gallon milk jug and placing it over seedlings.
- Plant heat-tolerant varieties in areas with summer temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which can stop fruit production.
- Rotate your crops from season to season, and keep garden area free of plant debris to prevent blight, which turns leaves brown and stems black in wet summers.
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