Tomatoes are probably the strongest draw for the non-gardener to venture into trying to grow something because there really is nothing like a fresh tomato. Tomatoes are originally native to the tropics, producing smaller berry-like fruit than we know today. Here are a few tips on the environment of their choice and care.
Because of their rtopical ancestry, tomatoes love it hot and humid. They grow well in pots, raised beds, and gardens. They love to have their feet warm, so containers and raised beds are a favorite. Tomatoes are split into 2 basic categories: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes have a finite height that they reach and are known as bush types and indeterminate tomatoes just keep growing. Some determinate varieties need to be staked and generally all indeterminate varieties need the support of staking.
Tomatoes are what we call heavy feeders and heavy drinkers. Tomatoes grow rapidly, produce large crops and consequently need plenty of water and fertilizer to maintain that growth. If they are growing in a container on hot summer days they will likely need a large drink of water in the morning and possibly at night as well. When you water your container tomato, be sure to let the water run out of the bottom of the pot so you know that it is completely watered. Use fertilizer specific for tomatoes weekly, or follow package directions as some fertilizers are slow release and need to be reapplied less frequently. Another very helpful tip is to put 2-3 inches of mulch around the base of the tomato, be it in a container, a raised bed, or garden. The mulch will keep roots cool, decrease water evaporation, and protect the roots from repeated waterings. If you choose to grow tomatoes in pots, ensure that you select a sufficiently large pot so that the tomato has plenty of soil capacity to hold enough water for its metabolic needs. There is nothing worse than having to water a tomato 50 times a day just to keep it from wilting on a hot day.
There is no rule of thumb any longer regarding whether to pinch back suckers or not. Suckers are additional stems that grow on stem nodes between the stem and leaves. At one time, it was recommended that they are all removed but this is no longer the case. In view of that, our recommendation is to just trim your tomato so it is manageable, because sometimes they can get quite, let’s say, ‘ambitious’.
Tomatoes and Basil are best garden buddies, companions that love each other and grow well together. You can even pop in a basil plant at the base of your tomato plant if it’s in a container; or in a garden, plant it right next to it.
Enjoy your fresh tomatoes!
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– by Sharon Wallish Murphy