All about growing tomatoes!
Planting: When you're preparing tomatoes to go into the ground, make the planting hole extra deep. Place the plant in the hole so that the first set of leaves are just above soil level. Roots will form on the buried stem, creating a larger and stronger root system. Tomatoes can also be started from seed.
Tomato Cages/Staking: If you use tomato cages, be sure to put them in place at planting, especially before the plants get too large. Don't skimp on the size of the cage because tomatoes WILL outgrow smaller cages, eventually falling over and possibly breaking. Another option is to stake the tomatoes. A 1" x 1" stake that is 6 feet tall, driven firmly into the ground, will also provide adequate support. Place it one foot from the base of the plant and tie the plant onto the stake as it grows. Use ties that will not cut or chafe the stem of the plant.
Fertilizer: Use an All Purpose fertilizer or vegetable food every 2 weeks, beginning when blossoms first appear. Maxsea All Purpose or EB Stone Organic Tomato Vegetable Food are good choices.
Pruning: Continuously pinch off the small leaves which appear in the crease above a larger stem. Don't pinch off too many large leaves or the sun will burn developing fruit. Pinching back the top of the plant after it reaches the top of your stake or cage encourages more flowering and fruit.
Containers: Tomatoes can be grown in barrels or tubs very easily. Plant them in Sloat Organic Potting Soil and fertilize them as you would in the ground. Choose determinate (bush type) tomatoes that will require little or no staking. Cherry tomatoes can be grown in hanging baskets, which makes harvesting a breeze!
Mulching: Mulch around the tomato plants after the soil has warmed -- this will keep moisture from evaporating. Plants will not begin to set fruit until nighttime temps are regularly above 55 degrees. Using Harvest Guard Protective Cover at night may prevent the blossoms from falling off due to cold night temperatures (it can also be used for frost protection on citrus and other tender plants in the winter).
Watering: Your plants should be deeply watered 2 to 3 times a week. Never water tomatoes from above. If the plant is seen wilting in the middle of the day, ignore it. Tomatoes will close their stomas in the heat of the day to prevent water loss by transpiration. They will perk right back up by late afternoon. If the plants look droopy in the morning, they need water.
Ripening: Tomatoes will fully ripen at least a month and a half after they set. Determinate tomatoes (the shorter, bush type) will ripen all at once, with fruit concentrated at the top/tips of the plants. Indeterminate tomatoes can continue to ripen into the fall. Our staff experimented with Yellow Pear tomatoes grown in a pot one year and had tomatoes still ripening in November at 45th and Cabrillo in San Francisco!
Tomatoes can be stored for a maximum of three days in a dark warm place and should NEVER be refrigerated. Enjoy...These lovely fruits are full of Vitamins A and C and low in calories!