Stop buying tomatoes. Use these 8 tips to grow them at home

Tomatoes are expensive in the store. Fresh tomatoes can cost upward of $2 per pound. That doesn’t include all of the tomato products you buy each year, such as pizza sauce, diced tomatoes and ketchup. You can easily make all those products at home if you grow your own tomatoes, saving you money each year.
Tomatoes grown at home can be healthier for you as well. Most tomatoes in the store are grown with pesticides. They are often picked way before ripening and transported thousands of miles to reach your home. Nothing compares to eating tomatoes straight from your garden. The taste explodes in your mouth — nothing like what you can buy at the grocery store!
These eight tips make growing tomatoes at home a breeze.
1. Don’t plant them too close
Tomatoes need to be far enough apart so that they have good air circulation. How much space is enough? Survival at Home says your tomatoes are spaced well if "you can sit a lawn chair between your tomato cages.”
2. Make sure they get lots of lights
Tomatoes need a lot of sunlight. If you put them in a shady location, you will never see a lovely red tomato. These plants do best when receiving a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight daily. Growing them inside requires strong artificial plant lights for at least 14 to 18 hours. You can’t put a tomato plant near a window and expect it to grow, because it won’t.
3. Avoid overwatering your tomatoes
Yes, you need to water the tomato plants, but overwatering them is just as bad as underwatering. If water doesn’t drain from the soil, the roots are left to sit in standing water, which could lead to their death by preventing them from getting the vital oxygen needed to stay alive.
You can do a few things to avoid this, such as planting them in raised beds rather than the ground. Large containers do well, but they should be at least 18- to 24-inch pots. Some tomato varieties, like Brandywine, require a 4-gallon pot. Make sure to use a high-quality soil that is free of both clay and sandy dirt.
4. Use organic mulch
Organic mulch is fantastic for your garden. It helps to retain moisture, regulate soil temperatures and add vital nutrients back into the soil. Make sure you give the soil time to warm up before you start to lay mulch. My favorite choice is grass clippings because they are free and add extra nitrogen to the soil as they decompose.
There are other choices you can pick for organic mulches. Some favorites are compost, shredded leaves and old straw. Note that I didn’t mention wood chips. That is because most wood chips you purchase in bags at the store are treated with chemicals. You want to keep chemicals as far from your vegetable garden as possible.
5. Prune your tomato plants
Many people don’t realize that you need to prune your tomato plants often. As the plants grow, you should remove the leaves and stems that are in the bottom foot of the plant. These are older leaves, and fungus typically starts to grow there first. These leaves often get the least amount of air flow and sunlight. As they touch the ground, they can introduce soil-borne pathogens to your plant.
You should also remove the suckers from the plant.
6. Add a support system
Tomato plants can reach large heights. Some plants can grow up to 6 feet tall! Almost all tomato plants require a cage, trellis or supporting stakes. They are unable to hold up their weight without falling over. Add a staking system soon after planting to avoid disrupting and damaging the root system. Continue to tie the plants to the stake as it gets larger.
7. Check for diseases often
Unfortunately, tomato diseases are too common. If you start to research, you quickly realize there are dozens of things that could potentially be the end of your tomato season. One of the most common and destructive diseases is early blight, which causes yellowing or spotting of lower foliage. You need to treat with a fungicide and remove the damaged stems and leaves.
Checking your plants frequently allows you to catch a disease or pest invasion before it gets out of hand. Diseases can spread rapidly, especially if you crowd the plants or forget to the prune the lower stems. When tomato plants touch each other, those infections can spread like wildfire, destroying all of your plants in just a few days. Take a walk through your garden each day and stay vigilant.
8. Pick before fully ripe
You might want to wait for your tomatoes to turn extremely ripe before picking them off the vine. You can do this, but you risk them splitting or becoming dinner for pests. If tomorrow brings a large rainstorm, those perfect tomatoes can split right in half or suffer from large cracks. Picked tomatoes will ripen right on your windowsill. There is no need to wait even longer. Plus, if you wait until the last minute to harvest, you have to use them immediately.
Growing your tomatoes at home is far from difficult. You don’t need tons of yard or garden space. All you need is an area with a lot of sunlight. If you can provide your tomatoes with six hours or more of direct sunlight and a large container, you can grow your tomatoes at home. Say goodbye to store-bought tomatoes and hello to fresh, organic tomatoes exploding with flavor.

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