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Eco living, growing your own organic tomatoes

The tools and materials you're going to need for planting your tomatoes are compost, a trowel, garden fork or tiller, plant supports such as cages and stakes, and plant ties.

First thing you'll need to do is prepare the plants. In order to harden transplants to the elements, give them at least a week to ten days of transition time between indoor and outdoor growing conditions. Start off by placing the plants in dappled shade and make sure they're protected from strong winds. Make sure you bring them in the house at night. As time goes by, gradually give them more exposure to the sun and wind. Eventually you'll be able to leave them out overnight. If it looks like there is going to be a frost, bring them back inside.

Next thing you have to do is prepare the soil. Mix the soil with composted manure until it's loose for at least six to eight inches into the ground. Mix the soil with a rototiller or garden fork. Test the pH of the soil. If the test shows that the pH needs to be adjusted, add limestone or sulfur as is needed.

After the soil is prepared, you can transplant. Bury the tomato stems up to the plant's second set of leaves, digging a ten to eighteen inch deep hole, if you need to. Fill up the hole with amended soil. Eventually, roots will form along the buried stem. Wrap a newspaper collar around the stems to protect the plants from cutworms.

Finally, you need to install support. You'll have a number of options for staking tomatoes. There is however, one method that is most common. In this method you'll position wire cages over the plants. Use five feet tall galvanized wire mesh and make cages twelve to thirty inches in diameter. You're going to need about three feet of mesh for every foot of diameter. Fasten the cages to short stakes driven into the ground so that they don't fall over.

Some tips about growing your tomatoes. For one thing, they'll usually stop growing at a certain height but some varieties grow taller than others. Dwarf varieties grow only 2 to 3 feet tall and will give you cherry-tomato-sized fruits. Keep your tomatoes well watered through the growing season so you don't end up with disfigured fruits. Finally, fertilize very carefully. Too much nitrogen will give you more foliage than fruit.

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