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How to Plant Tomatoes Vertically

Bright red, succulent tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) are one of summer’s best gifts. Eaten straight off the vine or tossed in a light salad, tomatoes possess a pleasant tangy taste that will delight your taste buds. All tomato varieties fall in to two broad classes — determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes are bushy, wide plants which typically create early-ripening fruit. Indeterminate or vining tomatoes continue to grow and produce fruit until the first frost. You can develop either variety vertically, but indeterminate plants will need a support system.

Purchase tomato plants from a nursery in the early spring. Common indeterminate varieties include “Champion,” “Early Girl” and “Jet Star.” Request the nursery staff to show you other indeterminate plants as well. Since tomatoes are prone to infection, it is a good idea to look for varieties bred for disease resistance. Initials following the cultivar name denote the plant’s resistance to common ailments. For example, VF means the tomato is resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilt.

Dig trenches for the plants after the danger of frost has passed. Invert the pot to gently tip a tomato plant to your hands. Use your fingers to loosen the root ball slightly. Place the plant in the trench and cover the stem with soil so that only the top three sets of true leaves are above ground. Tamp down the ground and make a small indentation at the bottom of the stem to collect water.

Prepare 1 pint per plant of fertilizer starter solution or dilute fish emulsion according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pour 1 pint of solution across the base of the stem to give the tomato lots of nutrients. Fertilize the plants every two weeks with a liquid solution until they fruit. Continue to fertilize with high potash fertilizer every two weeks for the rest of the growing season.

Drive a 5- to 6-foot wooden stake to the ground around 4 inches from the cylinder using a mallet. Loosely tie strips of fabric on the stake every couple of inches.

Secure the stem of the tomato into the stake using the strips of fabric, as the plant grows. Keep the fabric loose to avoid damaging the stem. Irrigate the plants often to keep the soil moist.

Prune the main stem of the tomato two leaves above the top truss once the plant has a total of four trusses. Pinch back side-shoots one or more times a week. Indeterminate tomatoes can become very big, so pruning is going to keep the plant manageable.

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