After the last chance of frost (and only the Good Lord knows when that is!) it is time to plant your tomatoes. There is a lot to consider before you put your plants into the ground. What? When? Where?
The first thing to consider is which type or types of tomatoes to plant. Tomatoes come two ways, determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes are your bush varieties. They will usually have a thicker stem and don't grow as “wild” as the indeterminate. Indeterminate tomatoes are vining. They have to be staked. They are the most popular because they give better yields.
Also do you want heirlooms or some newer hybrids? Remember hybrid and genetically engineered are NOT the same. You will not find genetically engineered tomato plants at your local store. Hybrid means you bred, for example, a type of tomato that takes the heat better, with one that is tastier. You will get a stronger plant. Heirlooms usually don't produce as much and are not as disease resistant but they sure are tasty! I usually plant some of both. My favorite’s heirlooms are Mortgage Lifters and Cherokee purple. My favorite hybrids are Beefmaster or Beefsteak, Amelia, and my all-time favorite- Husky Cherry. These are a mix of indeterminate & somewhat determinate.
Now it is the when part. Is it going to frost? Who knows? My tomatoes are indoor/outdoor tomatoes until I am pretty sure it's not going to frost. I put them out during the day and bring them in at night. I like to repot my tomato plants twice before I plant them into their permanent, bigger pot home. I let the tomatoes get some height to them. I then plant them in a bigger pot. I pull off the lower branches. I plant the whole stalk up to the 3 inches so that I have three inches of plant sticking out of the ground. Do this and you are sure to have a great root system. Always plant your tomatoes deep. Only leave about 3 to 4inches of stem out of the ground.
Location, Location, Location! We hear it all the time in the business world but it pertains to plants just as well. Our summers have been scorchers the last few years, so planting your tomatoes in an area that gets some shade may help. The morning sun is much better than the afternoon. Also you may put some in pots that you can roll around from place to place. Tomatoes will not set fruit if the night temperatures are above 70 degrees. It just ain't going to happen. Please don't fret though. Keep them watered and babied, and when the nights turn cooler, the blooms will return. I have had tomatoes until Christmas for the last two years.
Some extra hints. Don't forget the compost. Tomatoes love organic material. Also, I always add lime to the hole when planting my tomatoes. About a handful is all that is needed. This adds calcium to the soil which prevents blossom end rot.
Tomatoes are one of the easiest garden vegetables to grow. I know what you are thinking, tomatoes are a fruit. Well, either way you see it, summer ain't summer without a tomato sandwich and a big glass of ice tea. It's about as Southern as “Yall come back, you hear.”
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