How to plant tomatoes


Planting tomatoes. One of the most popular vegetables for the home garden, a favourite for growing and for eating. Given sunlight, reasonably good soil and moisture, tomatoes will grow at one season or other in every state. They must have full sunlight; partial shade makes the tomato plant grow rank, with the blossoms dropping off instead of forming fruit.

Despite their congeniality to so many locales, tomatoes are susceptible to many diseases. Quick growing varieties are most suitable to the most northern states, which have a short season. These varieties include Bounty, Victor, Bison, and Firesteel. They also are among the best for the Great Plains region. Rutgers, Marglobe, and Pritchard are wilt-resistant and well established for eastern United States, a trifle later than Earliana and Bonny Best but usually more productive.

On highly wilt-infested soils Pan American appears to be well worth while; it is virtually immune to fusarium wilt. Stone, Norton, and Pearson are late varieties grown in the warm California valleys. It is recommended that the small gardener buy some plants from a seeds man for transplanting. Tomatoes should not be planted until the danger of frost is past. Hot, dry, southern midsummer weather also is unfavourable for planting tomatoes. Spacing depends on varieties and whether the plants are to be staked or pruned. If the plants are to be trained up on stakes the gardener will be able to use twice as many plants as if he lets them go untrained, to spread over a wide space.

If pruned to a single stem or two and tied to a stake, they may be set 1 1/2 feet apart in 3-foot rows; if not, they should be set 3 feet apart in 4-foot rows. Pruning and staking are recommended; they allow a greater yield from the same footage and make cultivation easier. The stake should be about 8 feet long, 2 inches thick and driven firmly into the ground. Use rag strips or soft cord to tie the plant to the stake; small, hard twine cuts the stems. Tie the string about the stake firmly, so it will not slip, then turn it loosely around the stem below a large leaf and tie it again. The string must neither bind the stem nor pinch it tightly against the stake. To be supported by a single stake, plants must be pruned; the unpruned ones become too large. Pruning to a single stem is an easy operation.

At the juncture of the large leaves and the main stem, side shoots or branches develop as the plant develops. They may be broken off easily, but care must be taken not to snap off the growing tip of the main stem. The gardener must go over fast-growing plants every 2 or 3 days to remove new shoots.

Soil for tomato plants may be prepared with manure and commercial fertilizer; a liberal application of these should be sufficient preparation under most conditions. Barnyard manure used in a garden in which tomatoes are to be grown should be supplemented with super phosphate at the rate of 4 or 5 pounds per 100 pounds of manure; the rate of super phosphate is doubled if sheep or poultry manure is used. Heavy applications of manure should be broadcast, not put directly in the rows, but it is advisable to mix a handful of complete fertilizer with a bucketful of soil at the place where each plant will be placed. A uniform and moderate moisture is important in avoiding blossom-end rot, which is more common among staked, pruned plants than among those trailing naturally on the ground. However, those lying on the ground show more of other fruit rots. Light mulching with leaves, dried grass or similar material helps to keep the fruits of trailing vines off the ground and also conserves moisture in the soil.

Tomato plants also may be started from seed, in a window box or in pots, spacing the seedlings 2 or 3 inches apart. Tomato seed germinates well at ordinary room temperatures. After transplanting they should be grown in cool temperatures with ample ventilation. Except for the early spring crop, tomato plants generally are grown in outdoor seedbeds, without transplanting. The beds should be seeded thinly. If there is a good supply of mature green tomatoes on the plants as the first killing frost approaches, they may be picked and stored for ripening in a dark place with a temperature of about 65 degrees.

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