I just returned from a business trip to find the carpets need vacuuming, clothes need laundering, but all my plants survived the heat and rain.  The most exciting thing I found is my very first ripe tomato.  My son has been (not so patiently) monitoring our tomato progress, always noting that "We can't pick the green ones."  He was so excited about the red one that he asked if we could have it for dinner. 

We all know the excitement when our gardens start to produce anything, bit flowers, vegetables or even a visit from a hummingbird.  Tomato plants should in their prime right now.  We recommend several methods for gardeners to help churn out ingredients for your salsa, salads, sauces and more.

1) Food and Drink - Tomato plants grow fast when it's hot, and they need regular fertilizer and water.  Keep watering consistent and try not to let soil go completely dry and then soaking wet.  Use a fertilizer formulated for tomatoes and other vegetables.  I like organic Tomato Tone from Espoma.

2) Go Calcium? - Calcium is an important building block for healthy tomato fruits.  If black "rotten" spots appear on the bottom of tomatoes and peppers, they have Blosson End Rot, a symptom of too little calcium.  Spray plants with a calcium spray like Fertilome Yield Booster for a quick fix.  

3) Lean on Me - The bigger they are, the more support they need.  Tomato plants are getting bigger every day, and the weight of the fruit needs to be supported by staking or caging.  If you haven't put a tomato cage over your plants yet, use a sturdy stake to hold them up and relieve weight stress on the branches.  Even container plants can use support.

4) Pests and Problems - Rainy spring and summer seasons can spell disaster for tomato gardeners.  Diseases like blight, anthracnose, and various wilts are common.  If desease symptoms appear, bring a few leaves to a horticulturist for identification and advice on how to properly treat them.  Tomato hornworms may start feeding on fruit.  Pick them off, or plant basil, a natural deterrent, around your plants.  

5) Farm to Table - Allow your tomato fruits to ripen on the vine for the best flavor.  Store at room temperature, not in the refrigerator, until you are ready to eat them. 

The first juicy bite of a home growm tomato is a summer rite of passage.  I can't wait to help my son pick that first tomato off our plants.  Hopefully the taste will last long enough for the next green one to ripen.