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Heirloom Roma, Bradley, and Rutger Tomatoes. Beside the high nutritional benefits, most everyone loves the flavor of a fresh, garden tomato!  It is probably the very most used of all vegetables.  Whether fresh, juiced, stir fried, baked in a dish, cooked in a soup or crock pot dinner, a marinade or sauce… tomatoes are very commonly used –EVERY WEEK.  It is not impossible to grow your own – potted or ground planting!  We have compiled a few tips and keys we have learned over the years to give you a head start!


GARDENING CARE:


LIGHT: Full Sun (some afternoon shade is permissible – especially if potted)  If you are growing in an apartment balcony, give it the most sun you can offer it.  At least 5 + hours is preferable)


SOIL: Moderate - Rich  (Composted soil is great!  But one of the main keys to growing tomatoes is: Lime.  Lime is a must for all tomatoes.  If you can get what is called “Burnt Lime” which is a powdered version of limestone, you really have an advantage.  This is so because Tomatoes are very dependant on calcium to be a healthy plant, to produce a harvest, and to resist disease.  Lime is a natural source of calcium.  We usually put a small shovelful (or a couple hand-shovel fulls) of lime)  Lime may be purchased at places like Tractor Supply Co.  Farmer’s Co-op, Lowes, Home Depot, and gardening centers.  Very important key as Tennessee soil is generally deficient in calcium.  


WATER: Do not over water.  Allow to dry between waterings. Direct your hose to the base of the plant; AVOID water on the leaves!!  Morning is the best time to give your plant a drink so that the leaves can fully dry.


GROUND PLANTING: Yes  (Highly recommended to mulch the base of the tomato so that mud and fertilizer do not splash on the leaves. Plus, mulching allows you a longer period before having to re-water.


POTTED: Yes (Again, mulching is helpful, see above)  You will probably want to use a tomato cage rather than a stake.  See below.


STAKING: This is another key to successful tomato gardening.  It is absolutely necessary to stake your tomatoes or to grow them in what is called a “tomato cage”.  If staking, drive a t-post or pole into the ground beside your tomato plant as soon as it is 12’’ tall. Then tie the plant around its main body to the pole.  Repeat the tying procedure as the tomato plant grows so that the pole supports the weight of the plant when the fruit starts weighing the branches down.  The purpose of the pole is to train the plant so that it does not creep along the ground where it becomes diseased.  Secondly, the pole provides a system for the air to freely circulate around the plant.  Thus you have a much healthier plant that is well kept and easy to harvest.  


COMPANION PLANTS: Basil, Parsley, French Marigolds, and Mint


Basil is said to repel whiteflies, hornworms while improving pollination and attracting honeybees (We have used basil around our Tomatoes) Besides the added benefits of “companion planting”, you can make your veggie/ herb garden quite attractive with some planning!


French Marigolds are another “companion planting” we have used: These are said to repel nematodes, tomato worms, and slugs. Very pretty companion planting especially when mixed with purple basil!


Although we have not yet tried this one, Parsley is said to attract hoverflies, which buffet themselves on tomato pests. Will be growing this one!



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