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Tips for growing tomatoes

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Earlier this week I got to enjoy a juicy bacon and home garden tomato sandwich. I cannot describe to you how delicious that sandwich was.

Every year my husband and I grow a small garden. When we first moved into our house, we had a quite large garden, but over the years the size has dwindled because of lack of time to properly care for all the crops. We always plant a variety of tomatoes, some for freezing, other just to enjoy on a sandwich.

I can tell that other gardeners’ tomatoes are coming in as well by the calls that we are receiving here at the office. Most of the problems that gardeners are seeing with their tomatoes could have been prevented. Other issues have been the result of recent hot, dry weather.

The weather, like other environmental factors, is something we cannot control. So let’s go through some proper gardening strategies for tomatoes.

Tomatoes prefer well-drained soils with high organic matter. Organic matter can be increased by adding compost, rotted manure or other humus and tilling it into the garden site in the spring. Tomatoes require a soil pH of 6.2-6.8. The pH of your soil can be determined through a routine soil test. Many soils are naturally acidic, so lime is usually a must. The calcium in the lime also will help with blossom end rot later in the season.

Be sure to select healthy, pest-free transplants for your garden. Reading the plant tag or doing some research online is a good way to determine the best variety for your garden. Hybrids are bred for uniform production and are usually resistant to certain diseases. Heirloom tomatoes offer a variety of flavors and colors. Determinate varieties produce most of their crop at one time. Indeterminate varieties continue to produce all season long.

Tomato plants can develop roots along their stems, so plant them deeply to encourage growth of a strong root system. Give tomatoes a little fertilizer at planting time and another application when they start to set fruit. If plants are to be staked, space them 24 inches apart in rows 4-6 feet apart. Although it requires more work initially, staking makes caring for the tomato plants easier.

Tomatoes need 1-2 inches of water per week depending on your soil type. If rainfall does not provide enough water, water deeply once or twice a week. It is always good to have a rain gauge near your garden so you know how much rainfall your garden is receiving. Too much water can lead to disease problems and cracking.

For best quality, harvest tomatoes when fully ripe. Fully ripened fruit may be placed in the refrigerator to prolong keeping. Tomatoes can last several weeks in the refrigerator.

Our office is looking to hire a County Extension Associate/Resource Manager. Please visit www.hr.uga.edu, select Staff Openings and Posting Position No. 20161217. Applications will be accepted for this position until July 6.

For more information, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or visit the office at 801 Main St., Perry. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Visit www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston for more news about your local extension office.

Dates to Remember

▪  Fall Series of Gardening with the Masters will begin in August.

▪  The 4-H has many day camps this summer. Please contact the office for more information

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