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Greene Thumb: All About Tomatoes

For some, growing this staple of American kitchens is a challenge. Here are some tips on how to start the season right.

Sometimes the best plan of attack in any urban garden is to dig a hole, insert the plant, cover with soil and hope for a happy ending.

But for tomatoes—which unlike other plants need a little bit more in the TLC department—there's a little bit more work to be done.

So with the growing season in full swing, here are some helpful hints on ushering those finicky tomatoes from tentative bud, green bulb to the ideal red ripe fruit (remember your botany, folks!):

What to Plant: We're a bit too far into the growing season to start from seeds, so your best bet is to get a tomato plant that has already gotten a jump start. Tomatoes commonly come in a variety of types, from Brandywine to Amish Paste.

Where to Plant: To produce fruit, tomato plants need sun—which can be the urban farmer's greatest challenge. Before planting, time the duration of those mobile sunbeams. At minimum, tomatoes need six hours of sunlight to grow, though eight hours is ideal. If your growing area gets less than six—perhaps it's best to go with less light-demanding root vegetables like carrots or radishes and get your tomato fix elsewhere.

How to Plant: According to Mother Earth News, it's best to place tomato plants at least 18 inches apart in a well-drained planting bed loosened 12 inches deep. Enrich each hole with compost fertilizer and plant the tomatoes deeper in the ground then they were in the container. Only a few leaves should be peeping out of the ground.

Watering Your Tomato Plants: Getting water exactly where thirsty tomato plants need it can be a challenge. That's why we love this ingenious invention that transforms a half-liter plastic bottle of soda into a watering machine for your tomato plant's roots.

Happy growing, everyone!

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