Follow simple steps to grow tomatoes
How many pounds of tomatoes do Americans consume each year?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans consume 22 to 24 pounds of tomatoes each year. Almost half of that comes in the form of ketchup or tomato sauce.
Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, potassium, fiber and beta-carotene. The tomato plant is a tender perennial that thrives in summer gardens.
The time of planting is an important step to consider. Tomatoes flourish during hot and sunny North Dakota summers.
When buying plants, choose durable plants that are approximately a foot tall. You can transplant outdoors after the frost has passed and the soil has warmed.
Tomatoes are easy to grow in a garden or a large pot. The crop produces a large quantity, so you only need a couple of plants.
All tomatoes grow best in a rich, well-drained soil, with water and nutrients being provided regularly. Fertilization should take place at the time of planting.
Place them in a location with as much direct sunlight as possible. Water carefully around the base of the plants, keeping the water off the foliage.
After planting, pat the soil around the plant until firm. For best results when container growing, plant just one plant per pot.
Wire cages can support plants during growth and keep leaves and fruit off the ground. An optimal sized cage is 20 to 24 inches in diameter and 4 to 6 feet tall. The cage not only supports the plant but also can prevent pests from eating the foliage.
Hornworms, large, green worms with white and black spots, are a pest that commonly affects tomato plants by eating the leaves. Other pests include the tomato fruit worm, which is the larva of a moth that eats the insides of the tomato. Flea beetles also are a problem because they jump from plant to plant, feeding on foliage.
Check your plants for signs of trouble every time you water. Any fungal infection will cause wilted leaves with spots or other markings on the foliage.
Harvest by twisting the fruit until it comes free from the vine. Avoid pulling on fruit when picking because this can break the tender tomato branches. Remove the tomatoes as soon as they ripen, and harvest regularly to promote new growth.
Growing your own tomatoes is a tasty reward. Follow these steps to ensure you can keep your tomato plant healthy throughout the growing season and enjoy all summer long.
Tomatoes can be consumed alone or used to enhance many dishes. Try something different with your fresh garden tomatoes. See www.ag.ndsu.edu/fieldtofork for more information about growing and using tomatoes and many other vegetables and fruits, or contact the Extension office at 252-9030 or NDSU.Stutsman.Extension@ndsu.edu