Growing Tomatoes

There are several types and varieties of tomatoes. Most require full sun and any moist, well drained soil. Set out plants in late May after the danger of frost has passed. Seed may be started inside 6 to 8 weeks before planting outside. Space plants 24 to 36 inches apart in rows 36 to 48 inches apart. Tall leggy transplants may be set deeper. Spacings are influenced by the training method selected. Plants trained on stakes are spaced 1 1/2 feet apart in rows 3 feet apart. If the garden wasn't fertilized, work in 1 heaping teaspoon of 5- 10-10 or 5-10-5 in a 1 foot circle where the plants will be set. Repeat the application when the first fruits are set, then once a month while the fruits are developing.

No training gives the most fruits per plant, but trained plants have cleaner, easier to pick fruit with less loss due to rots. If plants are staked, put the stake in the soil shortly after transplanting. Use a 6 foot stake and put at least 10 inches in the ground. Tie the plant to the stake with rags or twine as it grows. Remove all side shoots to get one stem. Leave the lowest side shoot if 2 stems are wanted. Cages are made from a 5 by 6 foot piece of concrete reinforcement wire. Make a cylinder and hook the ends to keep the cylinder together. Remove the bottom rung and push the resulting prongs into the soil. Place the cage over the tomato soon after transplanting. If other wire is used, make sure the mesh is large enough to get a hand and tomato through. Tomatoes need an even moisture supply. Mulching with organic mulches or black plastic is beneficial. If grass clipping are used, don't apply them after the lawn was sprayed with weed killer.

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