The Q&A Archives: Tomatoes

Question: How do I grow large, good tasting tomatoes? Can you offer tips on feeding, watering, pruning and supporting large tomatoes?

Answer: Tomatoes are America's favorite garden vegetable. The tomato cultivars that turn out to be your favorites will depend on your own personal taste. Tomatoes come in determinate and indeterminate types. The vines of determinate, or bush, tomatoes grow 1'-3' long, and the main stem and suckers produce about three flower clusters each. Once flowers form at the vine tips, the plant stops growing. This means determinate types set fruit once and then stop. Determinate type tomatoes rarely need staking. Indeterminate tomatoes have sprawling vines that grow 6'-20' long. They produce flower clusters at every second leaf. They keep growing and producing unless stopped by frost or disease, giving you fresh tomatoes all season long.

Begin by finding the sunniest spot in your garden and amending the soil in preparation to planting tomatoes. Amend the soil with plenty of organic matter. Then sow seeds or plant transplants, adding two stakes to each planting hole, or placing a wire cage over the plant. Mulch the top of the soil to help suppress weeds and retain moisture. As the plants grow, gently tie them to the stakes, or pull the stems through the wire cages. It's not necessary to prune the plants, just keep the vines off the ground by tying them to the supports. A weekly dose of liquid seaweed will increase fruit production. When plants flower, side-dress with compost and when small fruits appear, feed with manure tea. Some of the largest, and best tasting tomatoes include Burpee's Supersteak Hybrid, Brandywine and Burpee's Big Boy.

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