Tomatoes are one of the easiest plants for the home gardener to grow and provide an enormous burst of flavor when picked and eaten fresh from the vine. The tomato is one of the most versatile homegrown vegetables and can be used in a variety of ways from fresh in a salad or sandwich, to spaghetti sauce to canning.
There are two ways to get started growing tomatoes, one is to grow the plants directly from seed, starting them seed-raising mixture and planting them out when they’ve grown large enough. The easier way is to buy seedling from a nursery ready to plant in the garden. If buying from a nursery, make sure they have not been in the pot too long. Plants are usually ready for planting in six to eight weeks and the roots should not overfill a four-inch pot. Look at the drain hole on the bottom of the pot and if the roots are growing through, it has been there too long.
Tomatoes are not picky about the soil they grown in, however, the addition of humus and mulch can help provide the plants with the nutrients they need without the use of chemical fertilizers.
Large Tomato Plants Will Require Staking
Once the plant is in the ground and begins to grow, stakes or cages should be used to support them and keep the tomatoes off the ground while they ripen. Tie the stems to the stakes with tomato cord or use strips from old stockings or other soft material.
When the first fruit begins to form on the vine, the plant will also begin to produce side-shoots in between the main stem and the leaf stems.
These side shoots should be pruned by pinching them out with the fingers and thumb. If allowed to grow these side shoots will produce a lot of foliage but few tomatoes. Any lower leaves that begin to yellow should also be removed to avoid the risk of infection.
After the plant has developed six or seven trusses of tomatoes break off the growing tip to stop the plant growing any more. If more than seven trusses of tomatoes begin to develop, the additional stems should be pinched out encourage the plant to produce good quality tomatoes rather than an abundance of low quality fruit.