Are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable? A fruit is defined as an organ of a plant containing seeds. The fruit protects the seeds as the seeds develop and helps with seed dispersal. Each fruit has different names. The tomato fruit is called a berry – a succulent or juicy fruit with many small seeds. As the seeds develop in the fruit, the fruit becomes sweeter. Everyone who has ever eaten a ripe tomato they picked off a tomato plant has been surprised and delighted with the taste. Whatever you want to call tomatoes…NOW is the time to plant!
Plant and grow tomatoes in full sun (6 to 10 hours) in well-drained soil, in a raised bed or in a large container. To prepare the soil, try to break up the clay soil and remove any rocks in the top 8-10 inches of soil. This will improve drainage. Add 4 inches of compost and 1 inch of expanded shale to the top 6 inches of soil. This will create a slight rise or berm to plant the tomatoes. For a raised bed, add ¾ sand and ¼ compost by volume. For a large container use potting soil or compost mixed with perlite. Very large containers work best. Use about a 5 gallon container. Used black nursery containers and half barrels are all good. Containers must drain well. Use a ½, 3/4 or 1 inch drill bit for additional holes for drainage.
As for variety, I could spend the remainder of the article writing about the advantages of different varieties but I suggest you go with what you can find locally. ‘Celebrity’, ‘Early Girl’, ‘Carnival’, ‘4th of July’, ‘Rodeo’ and ‘Carnival’ are good medium size tomatoes. All cherry and grape tomatoes are great. Most are hybrids of ‘Sweet 100.’ In fact some of the cherry tomatoes will produce fruit when the larger varieties tomatoes stop producing because of the heat.
Space the tomatoes at least 3 to 4 feet apart with a sturdy cage. Most tomatoes will become heavy with fruit very quickly. Three to 4 tomato plants are good for a family of 2 to 3 if you want to eat all the tomatoes fresh. If you want share, can, freeze or dry, plant more. If you need canning, freezing or drying instructions, email me a request, firstname.lastname@example.org
Add mulch under tomato plants to keep the soil evenly moist, prevent soil erosion, moderate the soil temperature, and control weeds. Use to 3 to 4 inches of bark mulch, straw or shredded leaves. Dry hot soil causes problem for to tomatoes because the roots are so close to the soil surface. Mulch prevents water evaporation from the soil so the roots use all the water you or nature applies.
Water the tomato plants slowly and deeply to help grow a strong root system.
Fertilize soil around tomatoes with a high nitrogen or nitrogen only slow release fertilizer. For raised beds use the same slow release fertilizer or water soluble fertilizer. For a large container, use time release or water soluble fertilizer.
Tomatoes are sweeter the longer you leave tomatoes on the plant. Pick tomatoes early in the morning. Wash and refrigerate tomatoes as soon as possible.