Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How to Plant Tomato

Tomato is the most commonly grown plant in backyard vegetable gardens today. You need at least two tomato plants per family member. Start your tomato patch by purchasing healthy transplants at your local garden center or over the Internet.

Tomato is one of the best plants for container gardening and it thrives with raised bed gardening techniques. For container gardening, patio hybrid, cherry tomato, dwarf or bush varieties are best since they are compact, with hybrid patio variety being the most common. Those grow two-three feet tall. However, container gardening works for any tomato variety - just choose your container size to fit the mature plant's needs.
First, choose your location to plant and prepare your vegetable garden plot. I recommend composted manure worked into the soil to 6 - 8 inches. You may need to add limestone or sulfur to your soil as well - do a soil test to find out. Tomato plants need at least 6-8 hours of sun daily - full sun is best.

"Hardening off" means to expose plants to the elements in small increments to get them acclimated to new growing conditions. This transition period can be 1 week - 10 days, depending upon climate and weather conditions. Put the transplants in dappled shade, and bring them in at night. Gradually allow full exposure to outside elements. Plant seeds six to eight weeks prior to the last frost date. In hotter climates, plant when temperatures cool in autumn.
Dig a 10-16 inch deep hole.

Gardening Tips:
--Insert the transplant into your hole, and bury the tomato stem (not just the root) up to the second true set of leaves (snip off the others with scissors.) Fill your hole with compost-amended soil and firm down.
--Another method to establish vigorous roots is plant the tomato in a trench on its side. It grows straight up, and dozens of small roots shoot out from the stem's "hairs" into the soil.

Wire Cages
My favorite vine tomato support is the easiest: wire cages which you buy from any garden supply center. Simply position them over the plant, insert them into the ground and you're good to go. The tomato vines grow straight up, need no weaving and shade the ground to keep it moist.
Other supports include wood stakes and twine, trellises, teepees, or plant alongside an existing fence ...

Wood stakes and twine
Put stakes that are 6 feet, 1 or 2 inches wide, every 3-4 feet between your plants, at both ends of the rows, and down the center. After they grow 1 foot, tie twine to the end post 1 foot above the ground. Wrap the twine around each pole down the row. When you reach the end, come back up the other side. As plants grow, weave through the twine.

Gardening Tips :
• Water plants after transplanting. Water in the mornings daily unless it rains. Blossom-end rot results from under-watering. Keep soil moist but not soggy.
• Feed with 10-10-10 fertilizer (or choose your own brand.)
• Mulch to retain moisture.
• Hoe/cultivate shallowly to avoid disturbing roots.

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