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How to Grow Tomatoes at Home

Authored by Theresa Leschmann in Gardening
Published on 08-06-2009

Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables for growing in the home garden. The wide variety of types available and the ease of care make growing tomatoes at home appealing to many gardeners. There are few things to know about how to grow tomatoes at home before you get started.

Seeds Versus Plants

Growing tomatoes at home from seed gives you the advantage of deciding when to begin. You can also plant more than you anticipate needing in case some don’t germinate or thrive. You will need to know the last frost date for your area as seeds should be planted 7 to 10 weeks prior to that date. This ensures the plants are hearty enough at the proper time to be moved outdoors.

The drawback is having the room indoors to grow more than a few plants. Tomato plants require lots of sunlight or artificial light. Without it, they weaken and become spindly. If you have the room and are eager to start, purchase seed starting mix from your local garden or home center. Fill your containers with the medium and wet it thoroughly. Using the tip of a pencil, poke a hole about ¼ inch deep into the medium and drop in two seeds. Cover the containers with clear plastic and keep them in a warm, sunny place. Seeds should sprout in 3 to 30 days, depending on the quality of the seeds and the room conditions.

Plants can be purchased from a variety of sources, such as garden and home centers, nurseries, mail order catalogs and local stores. Check that the plants look healthy with straight, sturdy stems. The leaves should not be yellowed, curled or appear to have been eaten by insects. Also avoid plants that already have fruit as these generally don’t transplant well. The advantage in buying plants is you have avoided the care of the plants for all those weeks and can start with plants that will very soon bear fruit.

Planting Tomatoes in Your Home Garden

When all chance of frost has passed, it is time to transplant the tomato plants. Your soil should be well-drained and situated to get sun for the majority of the day. Dig a hole deep enough to set the plant in up to its lowest leaves. Burying the plant this deep allows the entire stem to send out roots creating a sturdier root system and healthier plant. Add some water. Cover the soil around the stem with mulch to hold in moisture and help prevent weeds.

Stake Your Tomato Plants Early

Setting the stakes in early, benefits the tomatoes growing in your home garden by not disturbing the roots when the plants are older and bearing fruit. Use kitchen twine to tie the plants to a stake or cage. As the plant grows, continue tying as necessary to support the weight of the tomatoes.

Pruning

Remove the “sucker” growth. Suckers are the leaves that form at the joint of a branch from the main stem. They drain nutrients from the rest of the plant and slow the production of the fruit. Removing them allows the nutrients to strengthen the rest of the plant and speed the growth of the tomatoes.

Harvesting

Pick tomatoes when they are red and snap off easily in your hand. Harvesting often will stimulate the growth of more tomatoes. Toward the end of the season, production can be hurried by cutting back any new sucker growth and the tops of their shoots. All the remaining nutrients will be delivered to the last of the crop.

Growing tomatoes at home is easy and requires very little effort. Water regularly, check for pests and wait for your bountiful harvest of home grown tomatoes to come in.

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