Not so many decades ago the tomato was a wild plant called love apple and believed to be poisonous.
Now the tomato ranks second among our most important vegetables. The calorie content is not high, but it is highly valuable for its vitamins A, B, and C.
When growing tomatoes you will need a fertile soil, too much nitrogen produces too much vine and too little fruit. Instead of using too much high-nitrogen fertilizer before setting, scatter a pound or two of nitrogen fertilizer per 100 feet on both sides of the row when first young fruits are half grown, and cultivate or water it in.
For the early crop, plant seed in a hotbed six or eight weeks before time to set in the garden, and transplant into a coldframe when 2 to 3 inches high, spacing 2 to 4 inches apart to produce stocky plants, or setting in small pots, plant bands, or sections of milk cartons.
If hotbed and coldframe are not available, plant in boxes or tubs in the kitchen or elsewhere for protection from cold. Containers, of course, should have holes in the bottom for drainage.
Usually it is more satisfactory to buy plants where only 25 to 100 are wanted for the early crop. Just two tomato plants for each member of the family can be made to produce enough "vine-ripe" tomatoes for use all summer.
You can even grow a bushel or more per plant. There will be some surplus for home canning or to give to the neighbors during late summer when they don't have any.
Important steps for growing tomatoes:
- method of transplanting
- disease and insect control
- staking or trellising
Mix soil, compost, fertilizer, and lime thoroughly as hole is being refilled two weeks before planting. A good start is important. Here is a method of transplanting that will help assure prolonged productivity of the vines
First - About 2 to 3 weeks before setting plants, dig a hole about 18 to 24 inches across and 18 inches deep. Keep topsoil separate from the subsoil.
Second - Fill the hole with a mixture of 3 parts topsoil to 1 part well rotted manure, compost, peat moss, or thoroughly rotted sawdust or leaves. Mix with this about 2/3 pint of fertilizer, such as 5-10-10 or 4-12-12.
If the garden soil has not been limed recently, add also about 1/2 pint of agricultural grade lime. Mix these thoroughly.
A good way to do it is to: put into the hole 3 shovelfuls of topsoil add 1 shovelful of compost or manure sprinkle on a little of the fertilizer and lime mix by turning with the shovel.Then repeat these operations until the hole is full.
Third - Run or pour water into the hole to settle the mixture and dissolve fertilizer. Let stand about 10 to 14 days before setting plants.
Fourth - Fumigate or rotate. If the area has been in a garden for several years, you more than likely have root knot or other nematodes in the soil. These nematodes will attack roots of your plants, and can seriously affect production.
Fifth - Set stocky, disease-free plants of any variety recommended in your area. Pour 1 cupful of starter solution around each plant when it is set.
Some pruning out of suckers is necessary when plants are to be staked. Pruning to a single stem is the most simple, but we like to leave two stems.
Here's how to do it
First - Drive stake securely into the ground about 4 to 6 inches from the plant before it starts suckering (branching out). Use sturdy stakes which are at least 8 feet long, longer, if you're optimistic or have a green thumb.
Second - As soon as the plant start suckering, choose one sucker near the ground and leave it to develop into the second stem. After this, all sucker should be removed by the time they are 4 to 6 inches long (suckers will develop on the second stem, too).
Third - Soft cotton or grass cord or strips of old cloth make good tying material. A good way is first to tie the string tightly around the stake and the make a loose wrap around the stem and tie again.
After plants are 3 to 4 feet tall, pinch off tips of suckers and leave the rest to help shade fruit from hot sun.
Fourth - Beginning about midsummer, it is desirable to provide good shade foreach cluster of flowers and fruit. To do this, you can leave the sucker next to each cluster until it has developed two leaves and then pinch out the bud.Other suckers should be removed, however. Trellising with "hog wire" or welded concrete reinforcement mesh about 5 or 6 feet high is very simple.
Roll the wire or mesh into a cylinder about 12 to 16 inches in diameter and place it over the plant before it starts suckering out. To prevent its blowing over, fasten to the ground with pegs; or in the case of hog wire, use two or three tall stakes for support. Removing some of the suckers when growing tomatoes will make it easier to apply sprays or dusts for disease and insect control.