Tomatoes are the one veggie most people use in all their meals from salads to casseroles, but depending on the weather sometime they don’t survive for too many days after buying. There are a variety of tomatoes and depending which is your favorite growing them in the back yard is a great idea. Head down to the nursery or hardware store to see what plants are available. Check out the recommendations from http://www.southernliving.com complete guide to the tomato plant and also the biggest mistakes to avoid when growing tomatoes:
The smallest slicing tomatoes are about the size of a baseball; the biggest ones can be larger than a softball. Choose from hybrids or heirlooms in a rainbow of hues—red, pink, black, orange, or yellow. For classic reds, try ‘Big Boy,’ ‘Better Boy,’ and ‘Celebrity.’ For pinks, pick ‘Arkansas Traveler,’ ‘Pink Girl,’ and ‘Watermelon Beefsteak.’ Black selections offer some of the most flavorful tomatoes. Try ‘Black Krim’ or ‘Cherokee Purple.’ Orange ones such as ‘Persimmon’ and ‘Kellogg’s Breakfast’ have fruity flavors, while yellows such as ‘Taxi’ and ‘Lemon Boy’ are sweet. Buy them online from totallytomato.com
New to many gardeners are grafted tomatoes, created when one plant is cut and joined to a different one with vigorous rootstock. Grafting offers improved yields and disease resistance. It can be a good choice if space is limited and you need maximum production from each plant. Some heirloom tomatoes, for example, are not as productive as new hybrids, but if you love their flavors and want a bigger yield, you can try a grafted heirloom for the best of both worlds. The benefits of grafting come at a price—up to $12 for a grafted tomato plant in a 1-gallon container. Smaller, less expensive grafted plants are available online from burpee.com.
Tomatoes love full sun, whether in your vegetable garden or large containers (earthbox.com). They like soil that has been amended with lots of organic matter, such as mushroom compost, chopped leaves, or soil conditioner. Rich soil will nourish your plants. Supplement feeding with organic fertilizers. To keep vines off the ground, use twine to tie them to economical bamboo or wooden stakes. You may need to tie plants every other day as they grow. If you are short on time, invest in convenient, reusable tomato cages; try tomatocage.com.
The Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Tomatoes
Like all plants, tomato plants need consistent soil moisture; keep the soil wet enough to prevent wilting of the tomatoes but not so wet that the roots develop soggy feet. Garden tomatoes generally require 1-2 inches of water per week, but that can change depending on weather conditions, such as excessive drought, and the size of the plant. When the plants are young, drip irrigation is preferred in order to avoid strong streams of water that erodes the soil. As the tomato plants mature, water more slowly and deeply. The roots of a tomato plant can grow 2-3 feet deep in loose soil, so the plant needs to be watered around 18″ deep. This is especially important in the summer heat. Remember, irregular moisture swings and dry soil can lead to problems such as blossom end rot and fruit splitting.
First, a quick lesson on the two types of tomatoes: Determinate and Indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes grow to about 3 feet in height and begin to set flowers for fruit. Determinate tomatoes can be easily well-managed in a home gardenand containers. Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow and produce both new leaves and new flowers and should be staked or started in tomato cages. Unless damaged by disease or insects, indeterminate tomato plants will continue to grow and produce fruit all summer and into early fall. Know your tomato type before you put them in a container or the ground and make allowances for their growth pattern. If plants are spaced too closely, either in a pot or ground bed, the plants will crowd each other, restricting air flow, sun light and water supply.
Too Much Fertilizer
It is advisable to provide additional nitrogen and nutrients to tomatoes after transplanting and once tomatoes begin to produce fruit. Adding too much nitrogen, however, can result in rapid growth of lush, carbohydrate-loaded leaves that attract insect infestation, and slowed or reduced yields. Reduce or discontinue fertilizing with nitrogen after early summer to avoid growth spurts and an overly leafy plant that will wilt during summer heat.
You do not need to prune determinate tomatoes; doing so may reduce the harvest. Prune indeterminate varieties to improve airflow; this keeps air and sunshine flowing freely in and around the plants and helps in preventing disease. Pruning also increases more yield per plant as well as helps with producing larger fruit. Pinch indeterminate varieties back when about 8 inches tall. This will help to encourage lateral growth of the plant or spreading of the plant.
Not Mulching Properly
One reason Southerners love tomato plants is that tomatoes do so well in the heat. You need to keep the soil around the plants moist and cool, however. Dry soil can lead to dry and diseased plants. Layer mulch 2 – 4 inches deep around the plant and pull it back about 2 inches from the stem itself. Form a small “moat” with the mulch, which will allow for water to get deep into the roots. Mulching not only holds in moisture but helps to control weeds and prevent the spread of disease.