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Tomatoes all year...indoors.

If you think tomatoes will grow only outdoors, consider gardener Keith Keating's comment about the plant in the photograph above:

"This cherry tomato was planted a year and a half ago. We don't do much to it except water it, and we've had ripe tomatoes throughout the past year."

Although tomatoes grow best outdoors in summer, a plant or two indoors can provide fresh fruit in winter and spring--and can improve your chances for a successful crop in areas with a short summer growing season. If you can find room on a windowsill, in a sunroom or enclosed porch, in a greenhouse, or in another warm, brightly lighted place, you can grow tomatoes indoors.

Plant from nursery sixpacks in March--this month is when you'll find the largest selection in nurseries. Plants will thrive over summer, producing fruit and building up momentum to continue right through next winter.

Varities that do well indoors

Although the gardener above had success with a sprawling variety, compact ones are generally best for indoor growing. These include:

Large tomatoes. 'Better Bush', 'Floramerica', 'Heartland', 'Marglobe', and 'Red Express'.

Medium tomatoes. 'Basket King', 'Bitsy', 'Celebrity', 'Earlirouge', 'Jackpot', 'Moira', 'Mountain Pride', 'Patio', 'Patio Pride', 'Pirate', 'Pixie', and 'Taxi' (yellow).

Small tomatoes. 'Florida Petite', 'Minibel', 'Small Fry', 'Tiny Tim', 'Toy Boy', and 'Tumblin' tom'.

If you can't find these varieties in nurseries, buy seeds and sow them as soon as you receive them, following packet instructions for indoor or container growing.

Indoor growing tips

To produce flowers and fruit, tomatoes need day temperatures between 75 [deg.] and 85 [deg.], and as much light as possible. Plant them in large containers or, as in the photograph, a permanent planter at least 2 feet wide. Use a soilless planting mix to avoid any soil-borne diseases.

When you plant, feed once with a complete fertilizer high in phosphorus. After that, use any complete fertilizer.

Watering can be tricky: especially in containers, too much water will rot tomato plants and too little will shrivel them. Water just often enough to keep planting mix as moist as a damp spong. Consistent watering is also the key to avoiding blossom end rot, which causes brown, dry spots on the bottom of the fruit.

For maximum fruit production, snap your finger against each new flower when it has been open about a day; this helps ensure pollination.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Mar 1, 1986
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