Growing Tasty Tomatoes

by Sally Cogdill


                Homegrown tomatoes – what a treat!  Growing terrific tomatoes is easy if you follow a few basic tips.

1.      Select a sunny site that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight each day. 

2.      Prepare the soil by adding compost and digging it in well.  If planting in containers use good potting soil, not dirt from the yard.  Place the containers where they will receive a minimum of 6-8 hours of sunlight daily; however, you should avoid areas with intense heat reflected off walls and patios.

3.      Select sturdy transplants:  the stem should be about as thick as a pencil, the plant should be about as wide as it is high, and it should have dark green, thick foliage. 

4.      Here is some tomato terminology to help you make your selections. Determinate: Plants that produce one crop all at once.
Indeterminate: Plants that produce tomatoes throughout the growing season.
V/F/T/N: Initials that indicate a plant is a hybrid that is resistant to the problem represented by the initial.  V – Verticillium wilt, F – Fusarium wilt, T – Tobacco mosaic, N – Nematodes.

5.      Recommended varieties for Colorado include ‘Big Beef,’ ‘Early Girl,’ ‘Celebrity,’ ‘Medina,’ ‘Roma,’ ‘Royal Chico,’ and ‘Sweet 100’ (a cherry tomato).

6.      Tomatoes can be planted as soon as the danger of frost is past.  Using “Walls of Water” and placing a layer of black plastic on the soil around the plant enables gardeners to get an early, worry-free start in spring.    

7.      Harden off the transplants for about a week before planting them by setting them outside in the sun for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the time outdoors.

8.      If the transplants are rootbound, tear or cut apart the rootball slightly at the bottom to loosen the roots.

9.      Place stakes or tomato cages into position at the time you plant the transplants.

10.  Water well and keep the soil evenly moist but not saturated.  Once the weather is warm remove the black plastic and apply a layer of mulch to conserve moisture and keep the soil temperature even.

11.  Fertilize with a water-soluble plant food designed for vegetables or tomatoes.  Follow label directions carefully.  Too much fertilizer results in lots of leaves and no tomatoes.  To prevent fertilizer burn of plant leaves, be sure plants have been well watered prior to applying a foliar fertilizer to the leaves.  Also, avoid fertilizing plants on hot days when the temperature will be 85° F or higher.

12.  Inspect plants frequently for pests.  If you see black pepper-sized specks, start looking for green-colored tomato hornworms.  You can control these by picking them off.