Tomatoes are a juicy, delicious fruit -- though most people think of them as vegetables -- that are packed with nutrients. They are used in a wide variety of recipes and can be eaten by themselves, both reasons why they are among the most popular crops to grow. If you're interested in growing tomatoes, the first thing to know is that they need plenty of sun. You'll want to plant your tomatoes in the sunniest part of your garden, where they can receive several hours of direct sunlight. You can grow them under grow lights, but they will need 14 to 18 hours under the lights each day in order to grow well.
One good thing about growing tomatoes is that they are amenable to growing practically anywhere, as long as the light is abundant. This means you can start your seeds in a sunny window of your home, using peat pots, small pots of soil, or seed starters, and move them outdoors later. Tomatoes can be grown in a garden plot, or you can grow them in containers of various sizes. This is good news for people who have little land on which to cultivate a garden, including apartment dwellers.
When you are growing tomatoes, give them lots of water (every 2 to 3 days) while they are growing; water daily if you are growing in containers. Enlist a neighbor's help in keeping them well hydrated if you are going away on vacation. If you skip a week of watering and then try to make up for it later, your plants may suffer from rot and cracking. Once the tomatoes grow and ripen a bit, you may be able to water a little less often (every 3 to 4 days), as this will encourage the plant to concentrate its sugars. However, you don't want to hold off on the water for too long, as doing so will cause your plants to wilt; they may drop their fruit (the actual tomatoes) as well.
Key in growing tomatoes is planting them properly. Plant your tomatoes outdoors when the temperature is consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). Be aware, however, that they won't begin to bear fruit until overnight temperatures are consistently 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.77 degrees Celsius) and above. If you've grown seedlings or have purchased tomato plants, plant them 2 to 3 feet (60.96 to 91.44 centimeters) away from each other and in rows that are spaced at least 1 foot (30.48 centimeters) apart. Once the plants start to grow larger, you'll need to stake them, using large sticks or tomato cages, to support the weight of the growing tomatoes.
The best soil for growing tomatoes is well drained and contains a good amount of organic matter. It's best if your garden soil has a pH of 6 to 7. If you like, you can use a small amount of fertilizer to encourage plant growth, but hold of on heavier fertilizing until your plants have begun to flower. If you are planting your tomatoes in containers, make sure they have plenty of holes on the bottom for drainage, and water them more diligently. Soil in containers will dry out much faster than garden soil, to the detriment of your plants.