Tomatoes grow under a wide variety of conditions and require
only a relatively small space for a large production. Of tropical
American origin, the tomato does not thrive in very cool weather.
It will, however, grow in winter in home gardens in the extreme
South. Over most of the upper South and the North, it is suited to
spring, summer, and autumn culture.
In the more northern areas, the growing season is likely to be
too short for heavy yields. It is often desirable to increase
early fruiting and the total length of the growing season by
starting the plants indoors. By adopting a few precautions, the
home gardener can grow tomatoes practically everywhere, given
fertile soil with sufficient moisture.
A liberal application of compost and commercial fertilizer in
preparing the soil should be sufficient for tomatoes under most
Heavy applications of fertilizer should be broadcast, not
applied in the row; but small quantities may be mixed with the
soil in the row in preparing for planting. Start early tomato
plants from 5 to 7 weeks before they are to be transplanted to the
garden. Enough plants for the home garden may
be started in a window box and transplanted to small pots,
paper drinking cups with the bottoms removed, plant bands (round
or square), or other soil containers. In boxes, the seedlings are
spaced 2 to 3 inches apart. Tomato seeds germinate best at about
70� F., or ordinary house temperature. Growing tomato seedlings,
after the first transplanting, at moderate temperatures, with
plenty of ventilation, as in a cold frame, gives stocky, hardy
If desired, the plants may be transplanted again to larger
containers, such .as 4-inch clay pots or quart cans with holes in
the bottom. Tomato plants for all but the early spring crop are
usually grown in outdoor seedbeds. Thin seeding and careful weed
control will give strong, stocky plants for transplanting.
Tomatoes are sensitive to cold. Never plant them until danger of
frost is past. By using plant protectors during cool periods the
home gardener can set tomato plants somewhat earlier than would
otherwise be possible. Hot, dry weather, like mid-summer weather
in the South is also unfavorable for planting tomatoes.
Planting distances depend on the variety and on whether the
plants are to be pruned and staked or not. If pruned to one stem,
trained, and tied to stakes or a trellis, plants may be set 18
inches apart in 3-foot rows. Unpruned plants grown in 2-foot
diameter wire cylinders are planted 2 feet apart, also in 3-foot
rows (fig. 30).