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10 Tips for Tasty Homegrown Tomatoes

Updated on March 3, 2011
Ripening cherry tomatoes
Ripening cherry tomatoes | Source

Nothing tastes as sweet and succulent as a home grown tomato. If you're planning on starting a few plants this spring, and almost 50 American households are, take the time to do the job right by following these simple tips for better tomatoes.

  1. Try a variety of plants. Instead of sticking with the same old tomato types, experiment with new colors, sizes and shapes. Heirloom tomatoes are popular these days, and they're easy to grow, too. If you like your tomatoes super sweet, try the new grape tomato cultivars. The fruit is slightly smaller than a cherry tomato, but tastes 10 times sweeter.

  2. Read the directions. The instructions on the little plastic spike that came with your seedling, or the information on the back of the seed packet is important. It will tell you most of what you need to know to maintain healthy tomato plants.

  3. Keep your seeds warm. If you're starting plants from seed, a great idea if you have kids, then make sure to keep their roots warm at night. Warm overnight temperatures will speed plant development. You can buy a flat, waterproof heater designed especially for plant seeds. It looks like a heating pad and installs under your plant trays.

  4. Check the plants before you buy them. You can save yourself a lot of problems by buying tomato plants from a nursery you trust. Play it safe by inspecting your plants for hitchhiking pests too. If you see any signs of insect activity, like webs, small worms, eggs or bites in leaves, pass. You'll have to look closely, but it's worth the extra time.

  5. Dig a deep hole. When you transplant tomato plants to the garden, make sure to give the roots plenty of room. This means digging a deep hole. Check the planting instructions to be sure, but a hole eight inches deep or more isn't unusual. Provide plenty of soil amendments if you have hard packed clay soil.

  6. Provide support. Tomato plants need support. As they set and develop fruit, they get heavy. You can find tomato cages and trellises to help keep vining and branching tomatoes up off the ground where they'll rot if left unattended. Your best bet is to buy a tomato cage or other support and put it in place before a young plant puts on much growth.

  7. Give tomatoes lots of sun and plenty of water. They need both to thrive.

  8. Fertilize. Tomatoes are heavy feeders. They need regular feedings of a quality fertilizer throughout the summer season.

  9. Ripen late fruit artificially. Tomato plants are annuals in most U.S. climate zones, and at the end of the season there'll be lots of green tomatoes on your vines that won't ripen. If they are only somewhat green, you can ripen them artificially by placing them in a bag with an apple or two.

  10. Inverted tomatoes need special care. If you love the idea of growing upside down tomatoes, go for it, but remember to use only the recommended varieties. The roots of upside down tomato plantings dry out fast, which can lead to trouble unless you use smaller, heartier plant strains.

Fresh tomatoes for salads, sauces and appetizers are easy and satisfying to grow. With a little planning you can have a healthy tomato garden that will provide a big yield and save you money. These resources will give you more tips and suggestions for growing and using tomatoes:

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