The age old question of weather a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable helps to make it one of the most popular vegetable in the garden. While the tomato is easy to grow, there are some precautions that should be taken into account. Here are a few tips that you can use to get the most out of your tomatoes.
- Start the tomato plants indoors. One of the less expensive ways to grow tomatoes is to start from the seed. When starting the tomato seeds, allow enough room so that the plant will have room to branch out. After the plants get their leaves, wait for about two weeks before transplanting them into a four inch pot. The young seedling will require at least 14-18 hours of direct light. If that is not possible, then place a florescent grow light a couple of inches away from the plants.
- Transplant. When the time comes to transplant your tomatoes, plant them deep into the garden soil. A good rule to follow is to bury about 3/4 of the plant. Don't worry about burying some of the leaves; it will not harm the plant in any way. Burying so much of the plant will allow new roots to emerge.
- Protect your young tomato plants. Once the young plants have been transplanted they will need to be watched carefully for the next couple of weeks. You will need to help protect them in the beginning. Something that I have done that helps to protect them, is to place a collar made out of aluminum foil around the plant. The foil helps to protect the tender plants from too much wind, and will help retain some heat. Keep the foil in place for about two week.
- Location of the plant. When planting your tomatoes in the garden locate your tomato plants so that they will receive full sunlight. Full sunlight is considered to be at least eight hours of sun.
- Watering. You want to be careful when watering your tomato plants. While the plants are growing and developing water the plants regularly and deep. After the fruit starts to ripen then water less frequently. Don't hold back too much water or you run the risk of the plants dropping their fruit. A good rule to follow is that, after the plants have been transplanted, they require about sixteen ounces of warm water per day for the first two weeks.
- Fertilize. Fertilize your plants sparingly. If too much fertilizer is used it will slow down the ripening of the tomatoes. Your local nursery can help you determine the right type of fertilizer for the soil in your area.
- Mulch. Tomatoes really do need to be mulched. The best time to mulch is right after the blossoms have set. This will usually happen after the night time temperatures have reached 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Mulching serves two purposes. One is that it conserves water and the other purpose helps to prevent some soil diseases from getting to the plant.
- Harvesting. Tomatoes are ready to harvest when they develop a bright read coloring, with a slight softness. You should start to see small green tomatoes somewhere from 45 to 90 days after they have been transplanted. Watch your plants and soon they will develop a bright red coloring, with a slight softness.
Now that your tomatoes are grown you can enjoy some fresh home grown tomatoes in your salad, or some homemade salsa. Enjoy!