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Growing Your Own Great Tomatoes

First, let's be clear - tomatoes are a fruit, not a vegetable!

And on "The Early Show," Cottage Farms Direct), which offer the most variety.

Tomatoes are easy, delicious, nutritious, and a part of some of our favorite summertime dishes, such as salsa, roasted tomatoes, tomato gratin, and fresh salads. With a few simple steps gardeners will have plenty for cooking and sharing this season.

How to Grow Tomatoes
Tomatoes need sun, rich soil, consistent moisture, and good drainage. Take care of those four requirements, and it's easy to grow tomatoes in ground or in containers.

Six-plus hours of sun a day is required for tomatoes to be fully productive.

Because of their vigorous growth, tomatoes are hungry and need a well-stocked soil. Fertilization during the season is also necessary. Tomatoes are somewhat drought tolerant, but consistent watering (every two-to-three days) helps more fruit to develop and prevents cracking or skin splitting. Drainage is important. Roots die and plants rot in waterlogged soil.

Tomato Tip No.1: Amend the soil with rich compost and an organic vegetable fertilizer (high in calcium) prior to planting. This helps prevent any problems caused by nutrient deficiencies like blossom-end-rot.

Tomato Tip #2: Plant 'em deep. Tomatoes have a special feature left over from their wild origins as a perennial South American vine. They can form adventitious roots along their stem. Unlike most other plants, it does not damage tomatoes to have their stems placed underground. In fact, it helps create more roots, which provide more nutrients and better support. Dig deep, then put the root ball and lower stem down into the hole. You can even plant them upside down in a Topsy Turvy planter.

Tomato Tip #3: Cage 'em early. Most tomatoes will need staking/caging during the season. It is not necessary to stake small seedlings when you plant. However, you want to have support in place before it gets too big. That way, you avoid damaging the tomato as you struggle to put a cage around the rampant beast that it will become.

Tomato Tip #4: Watch for pests and problems. Check the undersides of the leaves for any signs of bugs or diseases. If you find a lot of aphids or other problems, handle them quickly. Use methods approved for organic gardening and products certified by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) to keep your tomato patch as healthy and natural as possible.

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