The Suburbanite
  • 4 ways to grow tomatoes

  • There are several principles  to keep in mind when growing  tomatoes.

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  • There are several principles  to keep in mind when growing  tomatoes. The University of Illinois Extension suggests these  growing basics:
    • Full sunlight is needed.
    • Keep plants above 50 degrees, but not too hot.
    • A tomato cage or a teepee  for the vine to grow around is  helpful.
    • Trim one-third of all  branches every month or so.  This keeps the plant strong.
    • Trim one-third of all  blooms for larger individual  tomatoes.
    • Never let the tomato plant  sit in water; it needs drainage.
    • Let the plant dry out between waterings.  
    • Use good, loose, organic  potting soil with lots of nutrition.
    • Feed with a good-quality  vegetable garden fertilizer.
    • When harvesting tomatoes,  twist tomatoes off the vine  while supporting the plant with  your hand to avoid damaging  the plant and ensure continued  growth.
    Container gardening is all  the rage because of its manageable size, ease of growing  and portability. A lightweight,  inexpensive plastic container  about three gallons or larger is  the perfect home for growing a  tomato seedling into a healthy  fruit-bearing plant.  Place the pot in a sunny spot  or relocate to various sunny  spots during the day. If you  have a lot of shade and only  partial sun, the container tomato is perfect for you.
    A small family garden is an  ideal way to introduce children  to the art of gardening and  teach them about horticultural  science without them knowing  it. Tomatoes are a great plant  to start, with as they grow relatively quickly.  You will need a well-drained  area that gets full sun most of  the day to grow your plants  to maturity. Skip the boring square garden design for  a naturalized amoeba-like  shape that enhances the plants'  shapes and growth patterns  with largest plants toward the  center, graduating outward  to the smallest plants at the  border. Build up the soil with  nutritious, organic soil. This  method is beneficial as it controls the soil quality and enhances drainage.
    If you have a sunny window,  atrium, Aero Garden or an artificial light source, you can grow  tomatoes indoors. Starting  tomatoes inside in spring parallels the natural growing season,  but the harvest can last into  the holiday season and beyond.  Growing tomatoes in winter is  possible, but an artificial lighting source will be necessary.  The simplest way to try this  method is by starting in spring  with seedlings, a container at  least 3 gallons, slightly acidic  organic potting soil (moisture  control mixes are great for indoor gardening) and a tomato  cage to support the vines.
    The edge of a patio, side of  the house or any tight spot  that gets sun is a fine spot for a  few well-placed tomato plants.  Small-space gardening is just  like any other form of outdoor  gardening.  Limit companion plants like  lettuce and other fast growers, as they can crowd out the  tomato plant. Basil and chrysanthemums grow well with  the tomato plant and may even  prevent insects from coming  around naturally. Keep soil  well-drained and fertilize regularly.

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