Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Tomato Plant Care

Ask any blind or visually impaired gardener what they grow in their garden and the answer will most likely be tomatos.

The tomato is actually a fruit even though most people think of it as a vegetable. At one time, people thought it was poisonous to eat and they were only grown for decoration. They were referred to as "love apples" then. There are literally hundreds of varieties to choose from for your home garden and all of them have different size, color, shape, season of maturity, disease resistance, and taste.

Tomatoes can be either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate means that they develop a flower cluster at the terminal growing point. The plant will stop growing at this height. Indeterminate plants do not form this flower cluster and will continue to grow taller indefinitely. Indeterminate tomatoes also produce very flavorful fruit, but are usually late to mature. Most of the older varieties of tomatoes are indeterminate. Determinate vines are easier to control but they also have ripe fruit for a shorter time period than indeterminate plants.

Tomatoes do not tolerate freezing temperatures, so it is best to plant them once the weather is warm. You will need to space your plants apart. The spacing for each variety is different, however. For dwarf plants, they will need to be twelve inches apart, staked plants should be 15 to 24 inches apart. Some indeterminate varieties even need four feet of space between them in the rows and five to six feet between each row.

When you plant your tomato plants, you should fertilize them right away. Mulching is highly recommended, especially if you want to have your plants for the full season harvest. Organic materials or black plastic is okay to use for mulching but don't put down organic materials until the soil has warmed. If you put it down too early, the plant will not grow as well.

You will need to water your tomato plants regularly and thoroughly. If you are keeping your plants in containers they may need to be watered at least once a day. You should also feed your plants with a liquid tomato fertilizer once every two to three weeks until the end of August. The fertilizer should be high in potash. Once September arrives, just feed with a regular fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. Weed around the plants as much as you can to prevent bugs and diseases from getting to your tomatoes.

As the plant grows, you will need to use stakes to support it. Tie the main stem to the stakes. If you give this plant the care it needs, you will be rewarded with delicious tomatoes.

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