The vegetable most people want to harvest out of their garden is tomatoes – for several reasons.

The first is flavor. While most vegetables taste better from the garden than from the supermarket, with tomatoes the difference is exponential. Tomatoes from your garden are juicier, more tender and usually more colorful – though flavors vary from variety to variety.

If you wanted to grow tomatoes from seed, you should have planted them indoors a couple of months ago. You didn’t? No problem. Farmers markets and garden centers sell all sorts of seedlings . You’ll want to plant several varieties – cherry-size tomatoes, probably one red and one gold, for popping into your mouth; slicing tomatoes, one determinate that produces most of its tomatoes at one time and one indeterminate, which will produce over a longer period; and, if you plan to make sauces, one paste-type tomato.

Plant your tomato seedlings about two feet apart. Tomatoes produce extra roots from the stem, so plant the seedlings more deeply than they were in the pot when you bought them in order to make the plants more stable and let them get more nutrients.

Tomatoes need support. It can be as simple as a stake on the ground to which you tie tomato stems with strips of ripped fabric – the fabric is gentler than string – or a tomato cage, but avoid those that are narrower at the bottom than the top.

Fertilize a little, but don’t give the plants too much nitrogen, which will promote foliage rather than fruit. And if you don’t get an inch of rainfall in a week, water the plants at the base, not on the leaves, or risk fungal diseases.

Then wait for summer’s bounty.

filed under: