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Growing a good tomato 

By Clif Knight 

No matter what you plant in your yard this year, tomatoes will probably be on the list.  

Whether you plant them in pots, in between shrubs or in a vegetable garden, these tips will help keep your tomato plants healthy and productive.  

Check plants daily to detect problems and treat them before they get out of hand. You will also see when they are wilting and need water on those first hot days of summer.  

A good layer of mulch will prevent soil from splashing on stems and leaves and minimize the spread of diseases. It also helps keep out weeds that compete with plants.  

Wet three or four layers of old newspaper and place these around the plants. Cover the paper with a couple inches of pine straw, leaves or bark to hide and hold down the paper.  

This practice will help keep moisture in. 

Cut off any leaves that touch the ground. This decreases the chance of plants contracting soil-borne diseases such as fusarium wilt. 

If black spots or other discolorations appear on the foliage, cut the affected limbs off. Make cuts one to two inches away from the main stem to avoid tearing the outer skin on the main trunk.  

Pull up badly affected plants, discard them and avoid planting in these areas next year. 

Clip off juvenile suckers – the shoots that appear between the main shoot and the leaf branch. This will increase the size of tomatoes and create a stem that’s easier to stake. This practice also promotes better air circulation, which discourages aphids. 

Try to keep plants evenly moist. If they dry out and then receive lots of water, you may observe blossoms drop or fruit cracking. 

If you can’t find tomato plants at your local garden center, root your own for late season planting. Suckers that have been removed from your plants may be rooted in sterile planting soil, sand or vermiculite. Set cuttings in filtered, not direct, sunlight.  

Allow cuttings to root for three to four weeks.  

These cuttings can be set out as a second crop that will extend your tomato harvest into the fall.