Home Vegetable Gardening: Helpful Tips for Better Tomatoes

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There are literally hundreds of different varieties and species of tomatoes. You can get them from very small like a cherry tomato to a larger one like beefsteak, and everything in between. Besides the number of varieties you have to choose from, they come in varying colors and shapes as well. Orange, yellow, red, to name a few colors, pear, plum and grape to name a few shapes.

Regardless of which type of tomato plants you decide to grow, following a few steps can go a long way to hardier harvest, producing more tomatoes than you thought possible and tasting a lot better.

Adjust the pH Level
Tomatoes like soil that is a bit more acidic, (pH level of 5.5 to 7.5), than most plants. In case you don't remember the pH scale, which measures the acidity of something, it ranges from 0 to 14. Anything under 7 is acidic, over 7 is alkaline with 7 being neutral. You can pick up a pH soil testing kit for a couple of bucks at your home or garden center. Simply follow the instructions on the kit to obtain the reading. If you need to bring the pH level down mix in some compost and manure in the fall before the spring/summer planting season.

Start the Seeds Indoors
Tomatoes like the heat and if you live in an area of the country like I do where the heat doesn't set it until mid to late June, then you will need to start your seeds indoors to give them plenty of time to grow when they are in your garden. Use a planter pot that is no more than 4 inches in diameter. Place one seed per pot and place the pot on a window sill in your house that receives sunlight first thing in the morning. Keep the water moist but not saturated.

Bury 'em
When you are ready to move your tomato plants from the indoors to the outdoors don't forget to bury them deep. When you remove your tomato plant from the pot, make sure you bury them up to the first set of leaves on the plant. Tomatoes can develop a root system along the stems on the plant which is why you can do this with them. This will the plant stronger and more developed.

Remove bottom leaves
Now that you have buried your tomato plant up to the first leaves of the plant, wait until your tomato plants are a good 2 to 3 feet tall and then remove the leaves closest to the soil. The bottom leaves are subject to developing various fungus and rotting problems and if you leave them on those problems will spread to the remainder of the plant.

Remove the Nutrient Stealers
Tomato plants develop what are called suckers. These are growths that form in the "v" sections of the plants stem system. They will never bare fruit and do nothing but require the plant to transport resources to them. Simply remove these from the plant so more of the vitamins and nutrients are heading to the branches that will actually produce tomatoes.

Keep in mind tomatoes require full sun and regular watering. Planting your tomatoes in an area in your garden that receives partial shade will do your plants a great injustice. Similarly, watering your plants only once in a while could stunt there growth, and overwatering will cause blossom end rot. Regular, consistent watering will yield the best results.

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Author: Bruce A. Tucker
Mike is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the Rest of Us, available where gardening books are sold. Sign up for Mike's vegetable gardening newsletter at his website: AveragePersonGardening.com and he will send you a free pack of vegetable seeds to get your garden started.

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