The Real American Idol? Tomatoes. Plant This Week.

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Difficulty: Beginner
Duration: 1 hour

 

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From multiple colors and flavors, cooking sauces to salsa or just making a sandwich — tomatoes belong in every garden, either in the ground or in containers.

With so many uses, it’s easy to get carried away. Unless you plan to can or freeze your harvest, 3 to 5 plants should be plenty. 

STARTING PLANTS INSIDE:

  1. You can start your plants from seed indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost.
  2. Sow seeds ¼” deep in well-drained seed starting flats or peat pots. Seeds will germinate in about 1 week when the indoor temperature is 75 to 85 degrees; at 60 degrees the germination process can take 2 weeks.
  3. Water regularly, and once a week feed with compost tea, fish emulsion or organic seed-starting fertilizer. Discard weak or sick-looking seedlings.
  4. When the second set of leaves appear, transplant to individual pots with drainage holes, burying the stems deeper than they stood previously. After this initial transplanting, keep moist but don’t over-water. 
  5. Two weeks after the last frost, harden off the plants by placing them outdoors during the day and bringing them in at night. Do this every day for about 2 weeks before planting them in containers or the garden.

PLANT TOMATOES IN CONTAINERS: 

  1. Select plants with strong stems and lots of flowers.
  2. Fill a 14” diameter or larger pot with a vegetable potting mix. Moisten it. Dig a hole in the center several inches larger and deeper than the pot the tomato is in.
  3. Cover the bottom of the hole with 2” of compost mixed with a handful of bone meal.
  4. Remove all the leaves from the stem except the top two sets. Place the plant in the hole and fill in with removed soil. 
  5. Scratch in ½ cup organic tomato fertilizer around the plant. Push tomato cage into the container for support.

TIP:

Plant cherry and grape tomatoes in hanging baskets in a sunny spot. Their dangling stems yield dozens of plump little tomatoes.

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