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Let's Grow:  Timely Tips for Terrific Tomatoes

by Lynn Hunt

Nothing says summer like the taste of a juicy tomato fresh from the garden. And nothing’s more disappointing than biting into what looks like a ripe beauty to find it pithy, mushy or flavorless. Before this season begins, why not combine gardening expertise, scientific knowledge and a pinch of folklore to insure a super summer crop.

Start by preparing your tomato patch way before planting time. Choose an area of the garden that is warm and sheltered and be sure to avoid planting in the same location year after year. Tomatoes perform best in soil that's rich in humus for healthy roots and potassium for strong stems. Work lots of compost into the soil, add wood ashes for a potassium boost and bone meal if your soil has a phosphorus deficiency. Don't overload the area with too much well-rotted manure -- the result could be an excess of nitrogen which will produce luxurious foliage but not much fruit.

Once all danger of frost has passed it's time to start moving seedlings grown indoors or healthy plants from your Growise Center out to the garden. Dig a generous hole and place a banana skin and two Tums™ tablets (no kidding!) beneath each transplant. According to garden lore, the bananas will provide extra potassium, and calcium from the antacid tablets will help prevent the dreaded blossom end rot. Sprinkle a tablespoon of Epsom salts around each plant, then wait to fertilize again until fruits reach about an inch in diameter.

After planting, have tomato cages, stakes or a tomato trellis ready to provide support. Then apply a good mulch to help retain moisture and block out weeds. Provide a steady supply of at least two gallons of water per week. Circle each plant with 1/3 cup of fertilizer monthly until the last tomatoes have been harvested. Prune out suckers, watch for pests and you should be rewarded with a bumper crop of tasty, terrific tomatoes.  



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