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Tomato Growing Guide

All tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) fall into one of two categories: Indeterminate plants bear fruit continuously up until frost; determinate plants set one large crop and are finished once it ripens. The numerous fruit types -- including currant, cherry, slicing, plum, and beefsteak -- may fall into either category. Heirlooms, whose seeds have been saved and passed on by gardeners, are frequently indeterminate.

For more growing tips on vegetable varieties, visit our Vegetable Growing Guide.

Habit: Indeterminate plants have long, sprawling vines requiring heavy-duty staking; determinate plants are bushy and can be contained by tomato cages.

Days to Harvest: 55 to 85.

When to Plant: Tomatoes should be started indoors 6 weeks before the last frost and only transplanted into the garden when the soil has warmed and frost no longer threatens.

Light: Full sun.

Soil: Rich, well-drained top soil, ideally amended with compost.

Watering: Water frequently and consistently. Mulch keeps the soil evenly moist.

Fertilizing: Tomatoes have high fertility requirements, so apply an organic fertilizer at planting and again at midseason.

Pest Problems: Aphids can be knocked off with a strong stream of water from the hose; tomato hornworms are large, green caterpillars that can be handpicked and destroyed. Also subject to several diseases that can be minimized by rotating crop, using resistant varieties, and mulching around the plants.

When to Harvest: Harvest when ripe. At the end of the season, green tomatoes can be ripened indoors.

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