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Growing Great Tomatoes by Karen Gross, Part 2
Transplanting and Growing Your Tomato Plants

Preparing Garden Soil For Tomato Plants

tomato success kiticon The soil should be deep, loamy, and well-drained for the best harvest. Tomatoes prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. The term pH balance refers to acidity or the alkalinity of your soil from a numerical scale of 1.0 to 14.0. The neutral point on the pH scale is 7.0. Higher than 6.5 indicates alkaline soil, lower than that indicates acidic soil.

(Article continued below.)

Test kits are available at garden centers or through local horticultural organizations. To raise the soil's pH, work agriculture lime into the soil. Use sulfur to lower the pH of alkaline soil. Using fertilizers and compost amendments will also change the soil's pH over time. Adding decomposed organic compost will improve any soil structure. You can purchase or make your own compost. Once you have cultivated your garden area and prepared the soil, it is ready for the plantings.

Planting The Tomatoes

Inspect all of the transplants, looking for insects, wilting or blight. Plant only healthy plants. Tomatoes prefer full sun, so choose an area with at least six to eight hours of sun per day. Practice crop rotation in your vegetable gardening by planting tomatoes and other vegetables in a different spot every year. Tomatoes prefer to be planted by chives, parsley, marigolds, nasturtiums, garlic bulbs, and carrots. Avoid planting tomatoes by potatoes or members of the cabbage family.

For large healthy tomatoes, give them plenty of room to grow. Space plants twenty-four inches between rows and leave twenty-four inches between plants. With your shovel or spade, make holes slightly larger than the plants. Tap gently on the bottom of the individual container, loosening the soil and gently removing from the pot. Tomatoes are susceptible to cutworms, but placing a 3-4 inch nail next to each stem before planting or wrapping strips of newspaper around the bottom of the stems will help prevent these pests. A paper cup surrounding the stem also works well.

Place tomato plant in hole and back fill with soil until it is well compacted. Place a rack or cage around each individual plant to help support future growth. Water around the base of the plant, avoiding the foliage. Do not over water or soak the seedlings as this can promote disease and rot. Water early in the day to discourage blight.

Using a rake, spread organic mulch, such as weed-free straw, over plants at least two inches deep. These is an effective way to prevent weeds, preserve water and keep the soil warm, thus reducing the maintenance required for vegetable gardening. Fertilize the plants throughout the growing season with compost or organic matter. Water when needed and inspect leaves periodically for the signs of tomato blight and insects. If blight is discovered, remove any infected leaves and destroy them. Treat plant with a fungicide. Be sure to remove all debris from your garden in the fall, as blight can survive on the dried tomatoes over the winter.

Most tomatoes take 100 days to bear fruit, so follow these easy directions and get ready to harvest the fruits of your labors and enjoy that first BLT of the season.

Items Needed For Growing Tomatoes:

  • Tomato seeds or plants
  • Containers or flats
  • A small greenhouse kit or plastic bags
  • Starter soil or mixture
  • Marking pen
  • Popsicle sticks or labels
  • Rake
  • Spade and shovel
  • Water, sun, adequate soil and patience

About the author:
Karen Gross is a professional gardener and design consultant. She writes for www.vegetable-gardening-4u.com, providing valuable tips and advice about seed companies, greenhouse kits and other vegetable gardening topics.

Spring - Tomato - 4

Back to the Beginning >> Great Tomatoes from Seeds or Seedlings

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