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Tomatoes are easy to grow, but there are some things to keep in mind to help ensure a good crop, says University of Missouri Extension horticulturist David Trinklein.
Watering: Tomatoes are about 95 percent water, so they need lots of water to grow and develop fruit. Tomato plants should get about 1-2 inches of water a week. If they don’t receive that amount as rainfall, they will need supplemental irrigation. Soak the soil thoroughly when watering. Frequent light watering will encourage a weak root system. Fluctuations in the amount of available moisture can cause problems such as blossom end rot and cracking.
Fertilizing: The fertilizer you apply at planting time won’t supply enough nutrients for the entire season. Apply additional fertilizer when the first fruits are about one-third grown, and apply again two weeks later. Three pints of calcium nitrate per 100 feet of row are adequate and provide nitrogen in the preferred nitrate form.
Pruning: Pruning the side shoots of large, indeterminate-vined varieties helps to improve fruit size. When growing tomatoes in cages, less pruning is necessary. Break out only enough shoots to allow good light and air flow through the cage.
Harvesting: For the best flavor, let tomatoes ripen on the vine, but harvest before they begin to soften. Avoid refrigerating harvested tomatoes. Store at room temperature to best preserve flavor and quality. You can harvest mature green fruits in the fall and hold for later use. Select tomatoes free of disease, wrap them in paper and store them at about 60-65 degrees. They will ripen slowly and provide good tomatoes for several weeks.
To learn more, including information about common tomato pests and diseases, see the MU Extension guide “Growing Home Garden Tomatoes” (G6461), available for purchase or free download at http://extension. missouri.edu/publications/Display Pub.aspx?P=g6461.