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Vegetable Gardening: Tips For Growing Tomatoes

Jun 7, 2008
Tomatoes are a wonderful addition to any vegetable garden. They add zing and a variety of healthy ingredients to any meal. But growing them can be a little tricky in some areas. Here are some tips about how to maximize your crop and minimize your problems producing them.

There are two broad categories of tomato plant, those that form a flower cluster at a terminal point and those that continue to grow taller indefinitely. The latter are called indeterminate and they tend to mature very late in the season. That makes them subject to possible frost damage.

Tomatoes love sun. They like very hot, dry soil and air. When they get it they grow up big and plump with healthy leaves. But cold temperatures will cause them to die rapidly.

There are various techniques used to deal with the threat of frost. There are small, portable greenhouses that are used to cover the plants when cold temperatures are expected. Another option is to plant and harvest your crop before cold temperatures are a threat. This, of course, depends on your location and specific growing season.

Conversely, sun burning can happen with other varieties. The plants that are affected by sun burning are well conditioned for northern climates, as they produce ripe fruit in 60 days or less.

Beyond weather problems, tomatoes are at risk for a number of common diseases, pests and soil problems.

Blossom end rot, caused by a calcium deficiency, appears as a large brown spot at the bottom of the tomato. It will often produce a soft spot and appear as the tomato ripens. One underlying cause is an uneven watering practice. Water helps transport calcium into the plant.

If a tomato develops blossom end rot, the only solution is to remove the troubled tomatoes off the plant to allow others the best chance to thrive. Preventing the problem is preferable. Be sure to encourage deep root growth by watering deeply. Help topsoil retain moisture during dry times by adding mulch around the plants. Maintain 6.5 pH in the soil.

A common irritant to all tomato growers are tomato hornworms. These four-inch larvae have a black spot on the tail and a large false eyespot. They typically blend into the green stems of the tomato plant, but are seen because they have long white stripes down their sides.

The adults are large brown moths that may achieve wingspans of up to five inches. Marigolds, basil and other trap crops can help keep them off the tomato plants where they lay their eggs that develop into larvae.

As with many other plants, aphids are another troublesome insects for tomatoes. They are tiny white, yellowish, or green soft-bodied bugs that can be washed off with a hose. Washing them off with a hose works temporarily, but they will return.

Petunias, coriander, or anise are companion plants and will help control the presence of aphids. Also consider an insecticide soap that will eliminate the problem and is safe for you and your plant.

Though there is care required, adding tomatoes to your garden is well worth the effort required. Having healthy vegetables on hand is an abundant reward.
About the Author
Are you looking for more information about backyard gardening. Learn more about growing tomatoes and lots of other vegetables at the Gardeners Atlas website.
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