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Test kits are available at garden centers or through local horticultural organizations. To raise soilís pH, work agriculture lime into soil. Use sulfur to lower pH of alkaline soil. Using fertilizers and compost amendments will also change soilís 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 soil, it is ready for plantings.
Planting The Tomatoes
Inspect all of 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 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 plants. Tap gently on bottom of individual container, loosening soil and gently removing from 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 bottom of stems will help prevent these pests. A paper cup surrounding 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 base of plant, avoiding foliage. Do not over water or soak seedlings as this can promote disease and rot. Water early in 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 soil warm, thus reducing maintenance required for vegetable gardening. Fertilize plants throughout growing season with compost or organic matter. Water when needed and inspect leaves periodically for 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 fall, as blight can survive on dried tomatoes over winter.
Most tomatoes take 100-days to bear fruit, so follow these easy directions and get ready to harvest fruits of your labors and enjoy that first BLT of 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
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.