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Gardening Tips: The eternal quest for the perfect tomato

Despite the slow start to the spring season, gardeners are itching to get their tomato plants growing. They have already started plants from seed or are cruising garden centre aisle for the perfect seedling to buy.

Despite the slow start to the spring season, gardeners are itching to get their tomato plants growing.

They have already started plants from seed or are cruising garden centre aisle for the perfect seedling to buy.

With our normally short northern growing season, the race will be on to produce nice ripe, red tomatoes before frosts arrive.

If you are planting seedlings out in to the garden, you can warm up the soil by putting a sheet of clear plastic out.

It works best as the sun shines through warming the soil quickly.

It also has the added advantage of helping weed seeds to germinate rapidly then frying them under the plastic.

Once the soil has warmed enough to plant, work a good quality, organic fertilizer into the soil.

Be sure to choose one that has calcium in it as this nutrient will help to prevent Blossom End Rot.

Dig a shallow trench for the tomato plant and lay it in sideways and cover all but the growing tip with soil.

Young seedlings have 'hairs' along the stem which will develop into roots when underground.

The more roots the tomato plant develops the stronger it will be! Just be sure that when you stake the plant or add a tomato cage, you don't cut through the plant stem.

Once the tomato plant is in the ground, you may want to cover the soil around it with Red Tomato Mulch.

This plastic film used to help prevent completion form weeds as well as reflect the far-red wave length of light up onto the leaves.

There is some evidence that fruit may ripen earlier when this film is used.

To help protect young plants from cool spring weather, you can put a large, vented tomato cloche over them or use a Kozy Coat plant protector.

The vented cloche is like a mini greenhouse over the plant.

The Kozy Coat is a red plastic series of tubes that you fill with water.

The water warms during the day and at night protects the plant from the cold.

You can plant out well ahead of the last frost date and keep the coat  on into July.

If you are planting your tomatoes in containers, be sure to choose the largest one that will work in the space you have.

Smaller varieties of tomatoes suited to patio gardening are good choices, but you can also grow full sized plants in a container as long as it is large enough.

The key for success is being able to provide constant moisture to the plant as it grows and fruit develops.

The main contributor to Blossom End Rot is inconsistent watering.

Try to keep the soil around the tomatoes constantly moist but not saturated.

If you stick your finger down an inch into the soil and it feels dry, give the plants a deep thorough soak.

I have seen a watering method online that I want to give a try.

You take a large pail and drill holes in the bottom rim and a second row up about 10 inches. 

Buried the pail to where the top holes just barely were above the ground and then add two shovels full of compost.

Plant you tomato seedlings around the pail and  fill it up with water every 2 days being sure not to water the leaves.

If you have limited space and want to try growing tomatoes in an upside down pot, there a few things you can do for best success.

First be sure you have a spot to hang what may be a 50 lb. plant once mature!

A regular shepherds hook or small screwed hook in the porch roof may not be adequate for the eventual weight.

You are best to install a strong iron plant bracket.

Buy a tomato variety that is best for this growing method such as Tospy Tom.

It has been bred to have strong lateral branches that won't break under the load of cherry-sized fruit.

Be sure to provide consistent, adequate watering so pants produce healthy fruit.

Then fertilize regularly as tomatoes are heavy feeders.