Tomatoes are far and away the most popular vegetable crop among the nationís home gardeners, and with good reason: not only are tomatoes are tasty, nutritious and versatile, they are relatively easy to grow and return high value for the space they occupy.
No store-bought tomato can compare with the flavor of a sun-drenched ripe tomato picked from the home garden at its peak of ripeness. And no vegetable compares with the tomatoís versatility. Tomatoes can be fried or pickled green, sliced into salads, stewed, stuffed and baked, chopped into salsas, dried, simmered into ketchup, strained into juice and pureed as the basis for a wide variety of tempting sauces and toppings.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
Small pots and multi-purpose compost for seed raising, and somewhere warm to keep them. Growing bags are a cheap source of compost, but can be difficult to manage. Some larger pots (30 cm or 12 inch) are a great investment Ė tip the growing bags into them. You'll also need some tomato seeds or plants. Also choose a fertiliser (slow-relase fertiliser is best) that contains magnesium.
Though tomatoes prefer a deep, loamy soil high in organic matter, they will grow and produce well in any good garden soil thatís well-drained and receives full sun for most of the day. They prefer a slightly acid soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8 of balanced fertility. Excess nitrogen can result in plants with lush, vigorous foliage but little fruit production. Although the tomato will grow in almost any kind of soil, it grows best in soil that is fertile, well drained, and in good tilth. It also needs plenty of sunshine and water, so avoid planting in the shade of buildings and trees.
Tomatoes should be grown in full sunlight and planted away from trees and shrubs to obtain highest yield. Tomato plants require abundant moisture for best growth, so arrange for easy watering. The area selected should be well drained since poor drainage promotes root loss. Tomatoes grown on heavy or poorly drained soils should be planted in raised beds or mounds four to six inches high.