Top tips for growing your own tomatoes

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More sun = more fruit: Locate your sunniest garden spot, tomatoes soak up sunshine just like water. They love seven hours of sunshine a day. Give them growing room, planting seedlings 30 to 48 inches apart, with rows set 48 inches apart. This will let light into the lower portions of the mature plants and improve air flow.

Is the the soil right? Tomatoes thrive in rich, well-draining, slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8. To determine pH, a soil tester is a worthy investment to grow the juiciest tomatoes. If the soil is too acidic, add dolomite lime. If it’s too alkaline, add sulfur or composted organic matter.

The Importance of timing: Whether you start your own seedlings or pick them up from the Garden Center, tomatoes like warmth. Wait until soil temps are consistently over 15 celsius before planting outside. If the weather is still iffy, protect tender seedlings from cold with row covers.

Dig deep: Here’s a neat trick: Tomatoes will root along their stems. Dig a trench and lay the stem sideways, bending gently upward. Nip off the lower branches and cover with soil up to the first set of leaves. This extra root growth will produce a stronger, more robust plant.

Tomatoes are sociable: Basil, garlic and onions are a tomato’s best friends in the kitchen, and in the garden, too. Grown together, they’re said to repel pests such as nematodes.

Water deeply and mulch, mulch, mulch: Juicy jumbo tomatoes need water, about an inch a week. A blanket of mulch — anything from shredded pine bark to grass clippings and composted leaves — will keep the water from evaporating in summer’s heat. A soaker hose is an efficient solution; just position the hose in the garden and pile mulch up and over the hose.

Trim that sucker! Tomato plants send out suckers — leaves that shoot out from the main stem. “Suckering” tomato plants, or removing the suckers, makes sense because it promotes air circulation, keeps down disease and focuses the plant’s energy on growing fruit. Small leaves and tender stems can be pinched off with your fingers; pruning snips give a clean cut to thick stems.

Prop up Toms: Keep in mind that there are two main types of tomato plants, the compact plants that fruit all at once and plants that produce throughout the season. Neat, self-contained determinate bushes keep to themselves, but don’t forget to support your tomato plants. They will grow uncontrolled. Cage or stake plants early, before they get out of hand.

Tomatoe Plant

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