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The Suburbanite
  • Green space: Memorial Day weekend kicks off tomato season

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  • If you’re tempted by “miracle” tomato growing products, save your money. Tomatoes are easily grown by themselves, with the addition of common sense.
    Memorial Day weekend is the tomato-planting season. Here are some ways to boost your crop with little work or expense:
    PLANTING
    Don’t crowd tomatoes, or they will produce much less fruit and the chances of disease increase. Depending on plant size, 30 to 48 inches of spacing are required. If using containers, use one in an 18-inch pot, or larger.
    Plant tomatoes deeply. Roots will form on the stem, adding to its vigor. Some gardeners plant with only 2 inches of top stem showing. Water the hole before planting.
    PREVENTION
    Cut worms are a major problem. Place a collar of wax paper up to an inch above the soil on your new plants. In four weeks, the stems will be tough enough to resist the worms.
    FERTILITY
    Tomatoes need a lot of nutrients at planting time. Top dress with compost or composted manure. This will “water through” to the roots. If you use plant food, use a slow-release type.
    SUPPORTING
    Your plants will produce more tomatoes if they are supported by a cage or a stake. If staking, do not use string. Use ribbon or even strips of panty hose. String will damage the roots in wind. Tomato cages are available at less than $2 in stores. Store them inside off season to prevent rust.
    WATERING
    The key here is even watering, perhaps twice a week. Uneven watering can cause blossom-end rot on your first harvest. It will clear up after then. Water under the leaves. Keeping the leaves dry helps stop fungus infection. Watering plants in the evening boosts disease.
    HARVEST TIME
    Picking ripe tomatoes helps the plant produce more and prevents disease. Try to keep stems on tomatoes as this helps preserve fruit quality in storage. The finest quality are “just ripe,” meaning a full red color but not a soft texture. Overripe are soft and very red.
    Green tomatoes may be picked and ripened on a window sill.