Fruit and Vegetable Gardening A-Z: Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a staple for any gardener. They create an aromatic presence in the garden and have countless applications in the kitchen! Great on kebabs and salads, canned or stewed, fresh with a dash of salt, or cooked up on a pizza, these easy-to-grow fruits are a powerhouse of nutrients and minerals. If growing a "determinate" variety, the fruits will stop growing when they reach their genetically predetermined maximum height; they also require less staking and usually are more likely to acquire diseases than their "indeterminate" counterparts. Indeterminate varieties will keep growing (without height or length restrictions) until frost finishes them off, are usually more disease resistant, and require more support.

Hardiness Zones:
5-12 (Find your hardiness zone.)

When to Plant:
If starting tomatoes from seed, begin determinate varieties indoors six weeks before the last frost date; start indeterminate varieties eight weeks prior to that date. Many nurseries and home improvement stores have starter plants available, which you can plant in the garden after all danger of frost has passed.

Enhance the soil with compost, rotted manure, straw, or even rotted leaves. The ideal soil is slightly acidic or neutral. Full sun is necessary for tomatoes.

Space Needed:
Plant caged or staked plants (see below) 24 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart.

Tomatoes will need either a "tomato cage" (available at nurseries and garden centers) or stakes to support them. Water adequately but do not overdo it. Mulch below the plant with some straw to help reduce water stress after the soil has warmed. Continue to re-secure the plants to their cages (with twist ties, twine or fabric strips) or stakes as they grow.

When to Harvest:
Harvest to your desired liking as soon as the tomato begins showing color. Tomatoes will continue to ripen off the vine.

Average Yield:
Yield varies by type, but 2 plants can feed a family of 4 throughout the summer.

Continuous Yield:

Life Cycle:

Difficulty Rating (1-5):