Tomatoes: A Growing Guide

A vegetable garden isn't complete without tomatoes.

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tomatoesHarvesting
Once tomatoes start ripening, check the vines almost daily in order to harvest fruits at their peak. Cut or gently twist off the fruits, supporting the vine at the same time to keep from damaging it.

Most plants can survive a light frost if adequately mulched, but at the first sign of a heavy frost, harvest all the fruits, even the green ones. To continue enjoying fresh tomatoes, cut a few suckers from a healthy and preferably determinate plant and root them. Plant in good potting soil in 3-gallon or larger containers. Keep in a warm, sunny spot, and with a little luck and care, you can enjoy fresh tomatoes right through winter.

Ripe tomatoes will keep refrigerated for several weeks, but their taste and texture will decline. Green ones will eventually ripen if kept in a warm place out of direct sunlight. To slowly ripen green tomatoes, and thereby extend your harvest, wrap them in newspaper and place in a dark, cool area, checking frequently to make sure that none rot. Sliced green tomatoes are delicious when lightly dipped in egg, then in flour or cornmeal and black pepper, and fried.

Tomatoes in Small Spaces
Even if you don't have much room to grow vegetables, you can still enjoy the taste of a fresh-picked tomato. Tomatoes are easy to grow in containers, making them perfect for decks, patios, or balconies. If you have the space, try growing full-size tomatoes in large fiberglass tubs or wooden barrels. For people with less room, there are dwarf cherry tomato cultivars, such as 'Tiny Tim' and 'Pixie Hybrid II', that can grow in 6-inch-deep pots.

All container tomatoes need lots of sun, plenty of water, and a rich, well-drained potting mixture. Compensate for the restricted root zone by applying liquid fertilizer, such as compost tea, lightly but frequently, increasing both water and nutrients as the plants grow.

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