Tomatoes, one of the most commonly grown plants in home gardens, are easy and simple to cultivate and, with just a little attention to detail can be made to produce a fine, luscious crop which can be consumed in any number of ways. They can be eaten raw, added to salads, cooked into a variety of dishes, canned or bottled for later use, or made into different types of sauces or drinks. There are literally thousands of varieties of tomatoes from which to choose and these prodigious plants, native to South America, can be grown in nearly any climate. Tomatoes, like their common garden brethren the zucchini, often grow to produce huge amounts of edible fruit, allowing the successful cultivator a surplus that can be shared with others.
Easy Tomato Growing Tips
Whether one lives in a colder, northern region of the country, the hot, arid southwest or somewhere in between, there are tomato varieties just right for them. In areas with a short growing season, choose early-ripening varieties such as Early Girl, SunGold or Pixie. For areas with an extended growing season, opt for Golden Boy, Wonder Boy, Beefsteak, Oxheart or any type of cherry tomato. A local nursery will know which types grow the best in each area.
Seeds can be started directly in the garden, but starting them indoors will give a jump on the growing season and protect them while they are at their most vulnerable. They will do best in an area of full sunlight in well-draining, fertile soil with a pH level of about 6.5. Employing a good mulch and compost or organic fertilizer will help them do their best. Mulch will help inhibit weed growth and prevent water loss. Tomatoes require adequate water and sunlight, but should be protected from direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day.
To protect tomato plants from bug infestation, certain companion plants can be located nearby. Good candidates include chives, garlic, marigolds, mint, onions, peppers and parsley. Sticky traps can also be employed. A homemade red pepper/onion/garlic spray may also be used to ward off undesirable insects. As an alternative, ladybugs can be introduced to eat aphids and their eggs.
Splits in tomatoes are fairly common and can best be avoided by controlling their growth rate with an even, regulated amount of watering and nourishment. If they are allowed to grow too quickly by over watering or over fertilizing they will be prone to splitting. Split tomatoes should be picked immediately.