By Kathy Van Mullekom
It’s time to dream of those summertime sandwiches and BLTs, made with tomatoes you grow in your own yard — in pots or the ground.
In most areas of the country, mid-May is the ideal time to put in tomatoes because they need warm soil, not just warm sun. They also need consistent moisture, especially while the fruit develops. Too much or too little water can cause them to crack, according to retired extension agent Jim Orband in Yorktown, Va.
“When growing tomatoes, make a few plans for success and you will have a harvest of vine ripe fruit for the salad or salsa or other use,” says Orband.
For good tomatoes, select a fertile, level, no-grass or weedy part of your yard, recommends Orband. Minimally, they need seven hours of sun daily — the more, the better.
When selecting plants, look for transplants labeled VFN, F1, F2 and TSWV, meaning they are disease free.
Mulch your tomatoes with a 3-inch covering of shredded leaves over four sheets of newspaper, a technique that helps conserve moisture and reduce weeds.
“The added benefit of mulch is that the moisture levels are constant, which reduces the potential of blossom-end rot,” says Orband.
Stake your plants to keep fruit off the ground and to allow all areas of the plant to get sunlight.
They need an inch of water weekly, so soak them with a soaker or drip hose when there is no rainfall; keeping water off the foliage helps reduce fungal problems.
Remember, tomatoes are easy to grow in large pots, too.
To grow really strong tomato plants, Bonnie Plants recommends that you plant each one deep so that two-thirds of the plant’s stem is buried.
If you plant deeply, they will sprout roots along the buried stem, so your plant will be stronger and better able to find water in drought. Try it, but only plant tomatoes this way.
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