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Grow with KARE: All about tomatoes

So many of us are growing tomatoes this year, but it's not the easiest of crops. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plant.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — When you’re picking out tomato plants to add to your garden, they all generally look the same.

But there’s actually a lot to consider!

First, the name … Heirloom means the seed has been saved over at least 50 years from plant to plant without being altered. They typically taste great and come in fun colors and even patterns. But heirlooms in general have little resistance to disease. You can save the seeds from heirloom tomatoes to plant yourself next year. Brandywine is one of the most popular heirloom tomatoes.

Hybrid means two tomato plants have been crossed to get the best of both worlds, like disease resistance and early fruit. Popular hybrids include Roma, Early Girl and Beefsteak. Seeds from hybrid tomatoes cannot be saved to plant the next year. Hybrids often have several numbers on the tag, each of those letters represents disease resistance.

Tomato plants can produce fruit in as little as 50 days or as long as 90 days. Look for the phrase “days to maturity” and choose a few different kinds if you’d like a longer season of fresh-tomato eating.

OK, now let’s grow them! Tomatoes need a lot of sun … at least 6 hours per day. Pinch off all but the top sets of leaves and bury it deep enough so only those top leaves stick out of the ground. If you fertilize, pick a slow-release fertilizer so your tomatoes don’t grow too quick too soon. Mix it in with the soil as you plant.

Water generously for the first week. Then give about 2-inches of water per week. Water the soil, not the tomato leaves, to prevent disease. Add mulch around the base to help conserve moisture. Consistent water helps prevent tomatoes from cracking.

If you’d like, you can fertilize tomatoes twice a month, following the directions on the bag. A fertilizer with calcium can help with the common problem of blossom end rot.

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