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Tips And Tricks For Prize-Winning Tomatoes This Year

Image source: lettucebehealthy.net

Image source: lettucebehealthy.net

In a new series of articles, we will be featuring some of the most common (and maybe a few not so common) garden vegetables and how you can get the most bountiful harvest of them in your garden. And for our first featured veggie, we decided to go with what is perhaps the most popular amongst gardeners – the tomato.

Fruit or Vegetable?

Technically – botanically – a tomato is a fruit. In fact, so are many of the so-called “veggies” that we gardeners enjoy growing.

Politically however, it’s a different story. In 1893, the Supreme Court ruled the tomato a vegetable in order to be able to levy duties on imported tomatoes as “foreign vegetables.” In subsequent years, other produce which are technically fruit were also “ruled” vegetables. Oddly, rhubarb – a vegetable – was ruled to be a fruit. Weird, huh?

Tomato Varieties

If you’ve been to a nursery lately, you have probably seen a dozen or more varieties of tomato plants available. But did you know that according to the US Department of Agriculture, there are more than 25,000 varieties of tomatoes?

Tomatoes come in many different sizes and colors, from bright red, to orange and yellow – even purple! They range from meaty to juicy and from sweet to tart.

So how do you choose what to plant? You must first consider how much space you have to grow them and what your climate is like. Different tomatoes will do better in different environments. Check to see what varieties your local nursery is selling, as this will give you a good indication of what might work for your area and do a bit of reading on the variety you are considering.

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If your area has been struck with common tomato diseases in the last few years – such as late blight [2] or root-knot nematode, you may also want to choose a variety that has some resistance to these problems.

Starting Your Seeds

If you are starting your tomatoes from seeds, you’ll get best results from starting them indoors approximately 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Seeds should be planted in moist, sterile seed-starting soil about ¼ inch deep.

Keep young seedlings under a grow light or in a south-facing window.

Moving Them Outside

tomatoes3Once the weather is warm enough, begin hardening off the seedlings by putting them outside for increasingly longer periods of time. This will help get them used to factors like changes in temperature, direct sunlight and wind before they are finally transplanted into your garden.

After all danger of frost has passed, it is time to move your tomatoes to their new home in your garden. Select a spot that gets at least 10 hours a day of sunlight and make sure you plant them far enough apart that there is plenty of room for air circulation.

Also, try not to plant them in the same spot every year, as this will increase the risk for disease to the plant.

Caring For Your Tomatoes

Tomatoes are not difficult to care for, but there are some tips that you should remember in order to help keep your plants healthy and ensure a bountiful harvest.

Tomato Troubleshooting

There are several reasons why a tomato crop might fail or not yield the desired results, but diligent monitoring and troubleshooting – not to mention a healthy dose of preventative maintenance — can often nip these problems in the bud.

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Common problems and their solutions include:

For many home gardeners, tomatoes are a must-have item in their garden and it is easy to see why. From fresh salads, homemade sauces and even jams – they are versatile and delicious. And while starting, caring for and troubleshooting these plants does take a bit of work, the results are well worth it!

What tomato tips would you add? Share your suggestions in the section below:

Do You Know The Biggest Mistake Gardeners Will Make This Year? Read More Here. [4]