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Backyard Tomatoes: Let's Keep Growing!

by Karen Lawson, All About Lawns Columnist

Enjoying the last of your garden's bounty? If you live in an area with a short growing season, there are ways to extend your backyard harvest and increase tomato production. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your tomato garden.

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Start Your Garden Indoors Before Spring Arrives

Tomato seeds are easily started indoors. Plant seeds about ½inch deep in containers such as egg cartons or nursery flats about 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost is expected, or earlier if you're using a cold frame or other mechanism for protecting your plants outdoors.

Extend Your Backyard Harvest

To get maximum results from your tomato plants, it's a good idea to prune any dead growth and flowers that haven't set fruit. This allows sunlight to penetrate to growing fruit. The sun's warmth prompts tomatoes to ripen. As sunlight diminishes with fall, the ripening process slows.

Although the days may still be plenty warm, the onset of fall brings chilly nights. You should "put your plants to bed" each night by covering them with blankets--aluminum space blankets work particularly well. If you're using space blankets, make sure to place the aluminum side down so that it's facing the plants. This keeps absorbed heat near the plants during cold nights. Remember to uncover your plants during the day. Replacing the blankets at sunset can trap the sun's warmth absorbed by the ground during the day.

Tomatoes Benefit from Early Holiday Decor

Stringing medium sized holiday lights among your tomato plants can help in evenly distributing heat to the plants when they're covered at night. Observe safety precautions and careful place the electric cords to avoid accidents. Turn off the holiday lights for the day when you uncover your tomato plants each morning.

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About the Author
Karen Lawson is a freelance writer with an avid interest in gardening and horticulture. She earned BA and MA degrees in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.



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