One of the most popular plants found in gardens around the United States, the tomato is easy to grow and easy to use in a wide range of dishes. That being said, there are a few things you should know before you grow tomatoes.
1. A tomato is a FRUIT, not a vegetable.
Believe it or not, the whole fruit vs. vegetable debate stems from a decision made by the US Supreme Court during the 1890s. A desire to tax the fruit as a vegetable resulted in reclassification and the public has been suffering from confusion ever since. Because the tomato contains seeds and because a tomato plant produces an edible fruit, it will forever be a fruit at heart. This means that while you’re growing this plant, treat it like a fruit.
2. Tomatoes need a spot with sun AND shade
Some plants thrive in sunlight, some plants thrive in shade – a tomato plant needs both. Several hours of sunlight daily are required for a tomato plant to thrive. On the flip side, several hours of daytime shade can help prevent too much sunlight from damaging the plant. This means you’ll need to plant your tomatoes in a spot of the garden that gets direct sunlight…for only PART of the day.
3. Tomato plants need space
Because of the rapid growth tomato plants experience, as well as their tendency to grow outwards, tomato plants need plenty of space. This will allow the tomato plant to reach its full size and ideal shape, yielding the ideal produce.
4. The leaves will require maintenance
Tomato plants grow quickly, meaning they’ll leave plenty of leaves behind near the bottom of the plant where fruit won’t be produced. After your plant reaches a mature height of 3 feet or so, trim these leaves away. Old leaves that exist close to the ground can be a hazard for attracting fungus and bugs.
5. Know the difference between determinate vs. indeterminate plants
Aside from the huge variety of tomato plants that exist, there’s also a categorization of determinate vs. indeterminate species. For the average home garden, you’ll want to look for a determinate plant, which means it has a pre-determined size it will reach before the plant stops growing. This is a perk for amateur gardeners, because after the plant reaches that size, it will start spending all of its energy producing fruit. This will likely give you a larger yield during a limited season.
6. How you water matters
Tomato plants tend to prefer deep watering with breaks in between. This means that simply hitting the plant with the sprinkler system every day won’t work. You’re better off letting the hose run water into the base of the plant for an extended amount of time once a week.