The Great Tomato Race
by National Gardening Association Editors
Variety Selection and Seed Starting
Plant the seeds indoors 10 to 12 weeks or more before the average last spring frost date.
Repot the seedlings into a deep container when they are three or four inches high. Repot a second time when the plants are 8 to 10 inches high.
Moving Them Outdoors
Choose a sunny section of the garden for your tomatoes. Till or spade the soil there deeply, mixing in a generous amount of fertilizer, compost or manure. If possible transplant on a cloudy day. In sunny weather, try to wait until late afternoon or evening.
If you transplant according to the trench method, the roots will be near the surface. If you set the plant in the ground vertically, keep the roots close to the surface by not planting them deeper than before, so they can warm up. Soak the area after transplanting. Don't use any mulch except black or IRT plastic.
Keeping Them Warm
It's vital to use windbreaks and frost protection devices such as hot caps, paper bags or bushel baskets.
Be sure the plants get enough water and watch out for signs of insect or disease damage.
Root-prune a couple of tomato plants when they have formed three or four clusters of tomatoes. This will hasten ripening.
Before harvesting your first vine-ripened tomato -- weeks before your neighbors -- ask them over to witness the event and collect your bets right on the spot!
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