Master Gardener’s Corner: Growing Tomatoes

Tomatoes are among the most popular vegetables grown in home gardens. For best results, choose tomato varieties that have been developed for disease resistance. You may have noticed letters after the variety name such as VFNT. The letters or codes note disease resistance of the variety, A-Alternaria, F, FF, FFF-Fusarium, N-Nematodes, T-Tobacco Mosaic virus, St-Stemphyium gray leaf spot, V-Verticillium wilt.

Tomato culture

Many home gardeners prefer to purchase transplants for their vegetable garden. Tomatoes thrive in most average garden soils in locations that receive full sun and adequate irrigation. If possible, transplant in the late afternoon so water loss from the plants will be minimized. Roots will form on buried portions of the stem, plants can be buried 2 or more inches deeper than they are in the pot. Press the soil firmly around each transplant so that a slight depression is formed for holding water, then water in thoroughly to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets around the roots. If you have snails in the area, sprinkle with snail bait.

Plant Support

Tomatoes need plenty of room to grow. Space rows of staked tomatoes about 2 feet apart. Virtually all plants require some type of support. In the long run, some kind of staking, caging or trellising, makes for easier care and picking of ripe tomatoes.

■ Growing tomatoes in wire cages is popular among gardeners because of its simplicity. But you will still need to stake the cage because they tend to fall down.
■ Your tomato plants can easily be staked. Use two to three 6-foot-tall stakes and surround the plant. As the plant grows, use twine to tie the vines to the stakes.
■ Trellising is similar to staking in that plants are tied regularly to a fence or a trellis.
Water and fertilizer
■ Tomatoes need a deep, regular watering. Timing and amount depends on the time of the year and size of your plant. You will need to keep the soil moist but not wet.
■ After plants are 3 to 4 inches tall apply nitrogen fertilizer and then water. Healthy, vigorous plants should not require additional fertilizer until flowering and fruit set are well under way. At fruit set, plants can be fertilized every 4-6 weeks. Follow the directions on the fertilizer box. Too much fertilizer can create lush, green vegetation but will delay flowering and fruit set.

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