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PLANT OF THE MONTH

Homegrown Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the favorite vegetable for home growing. Over the past years, commercial growers have produced tomato varieties that valued shelf-life and unblemished prettiness over taste--and the result has been an almost tasteless tomato at your local stores. You can put taste back on top of the list by growing your own.

Tips on Choosing Your Tomato Plants:
  • Height and bushiness of the plant are important, particularly for gardeners growing tomatoes in small spaces. Check to see whether the variety you select is "determinate" (bush type--produces all at once--best for small spaces) or "indeterminate" (vine type--produces throughout the season and grows in all directions).
  • Consider taste, size, shape, color, mildness, (acidity or non-acidity), disease resistance, and cracking resistance.
  • Your intended use for the tomato may dictate your selection. For instance, if you want to use your tomato crop for preserving or for making tomato paste, you'll want to select a variety that has a strong tomato flavor and lasts a long time in the refrigerator.
  • Depending on when you plant, you may be concerned about the "days to maturity" (the time it takes a transplant to bear ripe fruit.)
  • Finally, consider selecting a few unique tomato plants that you haven't tried before or a novelty variety no one else in the neighborhood grows.
Planting tips:
  • Choose a spot in full sun, and prepare the soil by digging it deeply with a spade and mixing in a good planting mix.
  • Add a good vegetable fertilizer.
  • Plant transplants deeply. If they're leggy, snip off the lower leaves, make a little trench with the trowel, lay the plant in sideways, and bend the stem up gently. Roots will form all along the buried stem.
  • Choose a staking system (such as a tomato cage or trellis).
  • Water deeply and continue to irrigate so the soil stays evenly moist.

Grow your own tomatoes! Your taste buds will thank you!


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