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photo by Marie Tedei

Harvesting (and eating) fresh tomatoes every day while they are in season is one of my very favorite things. Tomato transplants should go out into the garden late-February through March for early summer harvest. If you missed out on the early planting, you have a second chance. For the fall harvest, tomato transplants should be set out in late-June through mid-July. Your local garden center will have tomato transplants in stock during that time.

I grow both hybrids and heirloom varieties for different reasons. While the heirlooms tend to have better flavor and color, some of the hybrids are a bit easier to grow and give you more reliable production. A favorite slicer hybrid variety I plant every year is ‘Celebrity’. This is a heavy and dependable producer of medium-sized, good-flavored fruits. Plants are resistant to many of the diseases common to tomatoes and are easy to grow.

Another favorite of mine is a saladette hybrid called ‘Sapho’, which is very heat tolerant and produces deep-red sweet fruit in large clusters. ‘Sun Sugar’ is a fantastic cherry type hybrid that produces super sweet yellow fruit by the bucket loads. Of the heirlooms, my favorite varieties include ‘Porter’, which produces pinkish-red plum sized tomatoes, ‘Green Zebra’, which produces loads of sweet green and yellow striped fruit, and ‘Roma’, which is great for making pastes and sauces.

Now, there are thousands of tomato varieties to choose from, each offering their own unique benefits. You just have to experiment with different types until you find the ones you like best.


  • Tomatoes need full sun. A minimum of six hours a day of direct sunlight is required.
  • Tomatoes require consistent moisture; so make sure you place them in a spot that is easy to water. Good aeration and consistent moisture will help reduce disease problems and result in better fruit yields.
  • Raised beds or containers work best for tomatoes because they require good drainage, soil aeration and lots of organic matter.
  • Amend your beds and containers with organic compost, humus, and well-composted manure. Use mulch as moisture conserving top-dressing.
  • Work in an organic fertilizer into the soil when you’re prepping the area. Use products like organic vegetable food, alfalfa meal, or cottonseed meal. One or two lbs. per 100 sq. ft. At planting time, apply a root stimulator such as liquid seaweed and also add Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate).
  • When planting transplants, be sure to place them deeper in the soil than where they were growing in the pot. Bury a couple of inches of the main stem under the soil. The plant will produce additional roots from the stem that help support the plant.
  • Cage your tomatoes to provide necessary support.
  • Apply an additional fertilization (liquid or granular) when the first fruits have developed to about a quarter of their mature size. Then, reapply every two weeks thereafter.
  • Avoid getting water on the foliage and water in the morning to avoid persistent fungal diseases such as Early Blight.

Leslie Finical Halleck is the General Manager of North Haven Gardens in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.growlively.typepad.com.

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LESLIE FINICAL HALLECK received her B.S. in Biology/Botany from University of North Texas and her M.S. in Horticulture from Michigan State University. From 1992- 1996, she worked garden center retail and ran her own small gardening business. In 1998, she joined the Dallas Arboretum, first as Curator of Plants and then Director of Horticulture Research, a joint position with Texas A&M University. In 2005 she joined North Haven Gardens in Dallas as their General Manager. Over the last 13 years, she’s written for scientific, trade and popular garden publications and regularly lectures and teaches gardening programs. www.growlively.typepad.com/

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