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Ready to grow? Start with tomatoes

By: Gloria Young,Home & Garden
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There’s a good reason why tomatoes are one of the most popular crops for home gardeners. The versatile vegetable will grow in most climates and tastes great in countless dishes. Susan Carey, co-owner of Foothill Produce & Flower Farm in Lincoln with her husband, Harry, cultivates dozens of varieties each year — from the classic and delicious heirlooms to the also tasty but easier-to-grow hybrids. Some they eat, but most they sell throughout the summer at the Flower Farm in Loomis. Looking to grow your own? Here are some tips to get started. 1 – You need good soil and fertilizer. “The soil needs to be warm and the frost danger needs to be past,” Carey said. You’ll want to amend the soil with good compost. But don’t put fresh manure on any vegetable crop, Carey warned. It should be at least a year old to eliminate E coli concerns. 2. It’s almost instant gratification. “If you plant in early May, they should sprout within a week — 10 days at the most,” Carey said. “If you don’t see anything in 10 days, they’re not coming in. They’re incredibly easy to start. They grow like weeds.” Kelly Manos of Foresthill, who was in Eisley Nursery recently getting supplies for spring growing, said her choice is Early Girl. “It gives tomatoes the earliest,” she said. 3. You don’t need a lot of space Tomatoes will flourish in a garden plot. But they also do fine in pots on a deck or even in planting bags. If you’re planting in pots, be sure to dump out the old soil and replace with new every year so the plants will have sufficient nutrients. 4. They can be exotic Consider the Zapotec pleated variety. “It is an heirloom actually grown by the Mayans,” Carey said. “It has quite a history. It is kind of convoluted and looks pleated. It’s more of a meaty tomato — not as juicy as some — almost a paste tomato.” 5. They’re hardy Ready to plant? The best way is to lay the stem in the ground horizontally. Then curve the top part of the stem upward, stake it with a little pole and tie it up, Strip off leaves from the stem that will be under the soil. And, if you remove the blooms, the plant will put that extra energy into establishing a strong root system, Carey said. 6. They need consistent but not constant care Don’t over water or under water, Carey said. She waters every third day and uses a drip irrigation system. “When we water, we water most of the day — many hours on slow drip,” she said. “They need a good, long soaking.”