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Growing tomatoes is a popular pastime in gardens all over the United States, especially once gardeners taste a freshly grown tomato. The flavor explosion of a fresh tomato, slightly warm from the summer sun, is not easily forgotten. Although tomatoes have a reputation as needy, finicky plants, growing tomatoes is actually relatively easy, with a little care. Growing tomatoes is also well worth the effort, as the difference between store bought and home grown is like night and day.
Growing tomatoes starts with seedlings. The gardener can either purchase conditioned seedlings from a nursery or start them indoors from seeds. To grow tomato seedlings, plant seeds in small pots filled with rich, moist soil indoors, six to eight weeks before the last frost. Keep the seedlings warm as they develop, and when the seeds sprout, separate out the healthy ones into individual pots to grow. About two weeks before planting in the ground, condition the tomato seedlings by taking them outdoors during the day and bringing them in at night.
When planting the tomatoes, make sure that the soil is well fertilized, and be prepared to add fertilizer at several junctures: two weeks after transplanting, when the first flowers appear, when the fruits start to take shape, and when you see the first fully ripe tomato. Tomatoes do not like to be cold, so it is recommended when you are growing tomatoes that you plant them in a sheltered area. Some people like to use a greenhouse for this reason, although any sheltered area out of the wind with plenty of southern exposure is fine.
Set your tomatoes at least a foot (about 30 cm) apart, and bury them well to encourage strong roots. Many gardeners like to add mulch at this point when growing tomatoes, to keep the roots insulated, moist, and warm. Throughout the growing period, make sure that the tomatoes get between an inch and two inches (2.5 to 4 centimeters) of water each week. Do not allow water to splash on the leaves, as it may damage them. If the weather looks like it is going to be cool, cover the tomatoes at night to protect them from inclement weather.
Many gardeners like to stake their growing tomatoes, to provide a better yield, pull the fruit off the ground, make it easier to harvest, and discourage pests. When harvesting, look for fully colored, glossy tomatoes. Some gardeners scatter tomatoes about the garden to stagger the yield, and also to rotate the tomato crop. As tomatoes are susceptible to disease, growing tomatoes in the same space year after year is discouraged.
Finally, since tomatoes are in the deadly nightshade family, do not eat any part of the plant other than the fruit. Enjoy the amazing taste of one of the hundreds of varieties of tomatoes in your food!
I have stakes in a small area of my garden. They are intended to support my tomato plants. After a few years planting tomatoes in the same spot, I noticed that they were not growing as well as years went by.
I have discovered that the soil needs a little rest. It is good to rotate plants, so the soil gets replenished with nutrients.
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