What do you like about tomatoes? Maybe it's a red ripe juicy fruit cut into a salad, a slice of tomato over top of a hamburger or a small fruit sprinkled with salt and pepper then popped in your mouth.
Other gardeners may not be as tempted by the tomato taste but they do like the challenge of growing plants full of palm size fruits to share with friends. Possibly they are also thinking of beating the Florida three pound record or an over six pound national winner.
It's hard to find someone who doesn't like something about tomatoes and this year there is still time to have tomatoes your way. Go for the really big fruits, grow a bush full of the quarter size cherry varieties or plant tomatoes of different colors.
You can grow tomatoes alone in the ground or along side other vegetables, flowers and shrubs. If space is limited or you have bad soil, grow your tomatoes in containers using a good potting soil.
Join the fun of raising tomatoes beginning this month with transplants produced at home or purchased from local garden centers. Then follow these steps to a successful harvest.
Step 1 - Enrich sandy soils with lots of compost, peat moss and composted manure. Also check the soil acidity and adjust to a pH of 6.5 if needed.
Step 2 - Set plants in the ground so the first true leaves are just above the soil. Add a mulch of old hay, loose leaves, pine needles or similar material.
Step 3 - Keep the soil moist. Water new plants daily the first week then whenever the surface soil begins to dry to the touch.
Step 4 - Support plants with a stake, trellis or wire cage. Add one or more stakes to wire cages to prevent wind damage when they grow full of vines.
Step 5 - Feed frequently but lightly. Apply a light scattering of a balanced fertilizer or layer of composted manure over the root system every 3 to 4 weeks. Or consider using a slow release fertilizer following the label.
Step 6 - Check frequently for pests. Handpick caterpillars from plants or control with a natural Bacillus thuringiensis or spinosad containing insecticide. Use a soap spray to control mites.
By October, when the weather moderates, the plants should start setting a good crop. These then ripen by mid November or early December to beat the first possible frost around mid month.