The tomato is an international favorite, largely due to the wide range of varieties that are available. In fact, there are more varieties of tomatoes than of any other vegetable. Some are great for frying, while others can help you make tomato sauce. A good quality tomato plant can produce between 10-50 pounds of fruit.
Many people do not know that the tomato is actually a perennial. If the tomato plant is in an environment where the weather is tropical or warm, it will continue to grow. Tomatoes are heat lovers. They do not do well planted in the garden until the night temperature stays above the 55-degree Fahrenheit mark.
- For an early crop of tomatoes, you need to start your seeds indoors. Set seeds in a seed-starter mix (not potting soil) eight weeks prior to the predicted frost-free date in your area. It really does not benefit you to start your tomato seeds earlier. If you do, they tend to grow spindly and leggy.
- Maintain strong light over your seedlings, either from the sun or from fluorescent lights which are placed approximately two inches above the seedlings.
- After the first set of leaves appear, you should put your seedlings in an area where the night temperature will reach 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Allowing your seedlings to adjust to this temperature will help to keep them from becoming spindly.
- During the early stage of growth, keep your seedlings moist, but you should not over water them.
- After your seedlings are three weeks old, you can place them in an area where the night temperature will reach 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
- After you are certain that all frost danger has passed, you can set your tomato plants in the garden.
- If you are planning to let your plants run or sprawl, you should allow each plant four square feet. If you are going to stake and train your plants, you should allow them three square feet of growing room.
- If your growing area tends to be dry, you should place your plants in a depression. This will help rainwater reach the plant's roots. If your growing area tends to be very rainy or wet, you should place your plants on a mound which is about six inches higher than normal soil level.
- After you have set your plants and covered them with soil, you should water them well. Do not water your tomato plants again, unless they are wilting. Tomato plants do rather well when left alone.
- You do not have to prune tomato plants unless you are trying to train them up a trellis or stake.