It doesn't take much space or any particular type of soil to grow enough fresh tomatoes for an entire family. The homegrown product far surpasses that usually found in stores.
Here are some suggestions for growing tomatoes from University of Maryland specialists:
Select a location in full sunlight, away from tree roots and shrubs which would compete with the tomato plants for nutrients and moisture.
Add 3 to 4 pounds of 5-10-10 or 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet prior to spading if no soil test analysis is available for your garden area.
Select plant varieties that have resistance to Fusarium wilt, a disease that can destroy your plants just as they are about to provide ripe fruit. These include Better Boy, Supersonic, Burpee's Big Girl, Park's Whopper, Harris' Moreton Hybrid, Beefmaster and Terrific. Some very good new varieties introduced this year include this year include He Man and Bragger.
When buying, choose plants that are 8 to 10 inches tall and dark green in color with a thick stem and no yellow leaves.
If the plants are growing in small plastic or peat pots, pick off blossoms or fruit that may have formed. They will sap the plant's energy supply, delaying it in becoming established, causing normal plant growth and total yield to suffer.
Don't suppose you can plant an ailing plant outdoors and that it will fully recover. It won't.
Don't plant you tomatoes outdoors until the soil is warm and danger of frost is over. The time will vary from year to year, from April 25 to about May 5. Planted in cold soil, they may never achieve their full potential.
Choose a cloudy day to plant them outdoors, or do the job in late afternoon or early evening, so they have a little time to adjust before getting hit by a daylong dose of bright sunshine. Better still, adjust them by giving them increasing periods of sunlight each day for several days.
If your plants come in peat pots, break off the top edges of the pot before sinking pot and plant into the soil. If there are no roots protruding, break off the bottom of the pot also.
Give them a starter solution when you plant them. After digging the hole and putting the plant in it, apply one-half pint of the starter solution around the roots.
To make the starter solution, use a soluble fertilizer, high in phosphorus, and dissolve it completely in water. Use it according to directions on the label.
Sometimes the early blossoms drop off without making fruit. This may be caused by cold or hot temperatures, or the application of excessive nitrogen fertilizer. Nothing can be done about it. A little bit later on the problem should end. Rarely does a plant continue to drop its flowers.
For top quality tomatoes free from sunscald, cracking and ground rot, grow your tomatoes in cages. This involves setting out plants in rows 5 feet apart with 2 feet between each plant in a row.
You can make your own cages with a sturdy mesh, preferably concrete re-inforcement wire, available at hardware stores, and place them over the plants when they are tall enough to require support.
Make the cages 18 to 24 inches in diameter and 3 1/2 to 5 feet tall, with openings of at least 6 inches. Form the mesh into cylinders and place one over each plant, pushing the cage about 6 inches into the ground.
The wire for such cages can be used in subsequent seasons. Ripe tomatoes can be picked between openings in the wire.
When the soil gets good and warm, mulch the plants to control weeds and help maintain soil moisture. IF mulched before the soil is warm, it will delay it in getting warm.
Tomatoes need the equivalent of about one inch of rain each week. If supplemental watering is necessary, heavy soakings at weekly intervals are much better than many light sprinklings. Do not wet the foliage any more than ncecessary.