There is nothing like the fresh taste of a garden tomato. The fragrance, taste, and feel of a freshly picked tomato can easily outperform any of the store bought varieties. Harvest fresh tomatoes from your garden with this guide about everything you need to know about growing tomatoes in your own backyard…
1. Choose the Right Variety for You
There are plenty of tomato varieties and it can quickly become overwhelming to see all of the different colors, sizes, and kinds while shopping for seeds or starters. We recommend growing tomatoes that you normally purchase at the store first. If you only use grape tomatoes for salads then consider starting with those. Slicing tomatoes are also often used but there is a wide range of different kinds and sizes. If you are new to growing tomatoes consider starting out with choosing smaller varieties that will ripen up sooner. Other good options for canning include paste tomatoes that are best used for sauces as well.
2. Choose Seed or Starter
Many seasoned gardeners choose to grow their tomato plants from seed by starting them indoors in the late winter and early spring. As LawnStarter suggests, to get use of two harvest seasons with tomatoes, start your first harvest in January indoors. Starting seeds indoors is common but may be overwhelming for a new gardener. Consider purchasing small starter plants once the last frost passes in order to get a jump on the growing season. These plants can be a variety of sizes and prices but any size should do well as long as you can get them in the ground early enough. Choose a sunny spot in the garden that will receive at least 6 full hours of sunlight at minimum. The more sun the better for these heat loving plants.
3. Protect and Hydrate
Once the tomato plant is out in the garden it has to face a number of other challenges. If your garden receives a fair amount of wind consider protecting young plants by surrounding them with a wind break. Easy options from home include using used milk cartons with the top and bottoms cut off as well as old coffee or metal cans. Anything that can be easily slipped over a young plant to protect it from the wind is a good option to keep the plant from falling over or breaking. Your tomato plants will most likely need added water depending on your location. Consider recent rainfall and the leaves of your plant in order to make sure that it is receiving enough water on a weekly basis.
4. Use Tomato Cages
Tomato cages are vital to growing strong and healthy tomato plants. Consider purchasing large tomato cages in order to make sure that you have enough space for a mature plant. Place tomato cages over strong healthy plants that haven’t gotten too big. Check back often to make sure that leaves and growth are being properly supported with the tomato cage. Carefully help any branches that need to be threaded up and over the tomato cage in order to encourage healthy growth. One thing to note is that you can’t put in tomato cages too early but you can definitely put them in too late.
5. Fight Hungry Insects
Area bugs will want to feast on your tomatoes just like you so make sure to protect your precious plants with an insect repellant. This can be a store bought option or something that you make at home. Spray plants with repellant that will keep area bugs and caterpillars from eating through tomatoes before they ripen.
6. Pick Often
Once your tomatoes mature and turn ripe make sure to pick from the tomato plant daily. Tomatoes can easily turn ready from day to day and leaving juicy produce on the vine will encourage pests to feast on them before you can. You’ll know that a tomato is ready to pick when it has turned the correct color based on the variety. A mature tomato will also easily pluck off the vine with a firm pull. Even if you can’t eat all of the ripe tomatoes, make sure to pick them off the vine so that overripe produce doesn’t attract pests and encourage destruction.
Growing tomatoes in your garden is a great way to provide healthy food for your family as well as receive satisfaction from gardening. Consider these tips when choosing to add tomatoes to your garden this year.
Written by Olive Dawson for EarthTalk.
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