Salmonella got you down? Grow your own tomatoes!

Restaurants and supermarkets across the country pulled tomatoes off their menus and shelves on June 9, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded its warning against a rare form of Salmonella found in red Roma, red plum, and round red tomatoes.

What better time to forego supermarket tomatoes and instead nurture your own backyard crop? Tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to care for, and you'll reap some of the sweetest rewards. It's too late to use seeds, but the perfect time for a plant since tomato plants love heat (something the country has plenty of at the moment). When choosing a tomato plant, look for a hybrid (they produce the most fruit) that's marked 'VFN,' indicating the variety is resistant to three types of diseases: verticilum wilt, fusarium wilt, and nematodes. Buy a plant without flowers and plant it deep-up to the first set of leaves. William Alexander, author of The $64 Tomato, recommends leaving the soil around the base a little below ground level to create an area for water to pool and keep the plants moist.

Add mulch to keep the roots cool, and in a couple of months you'll have home grown tomatoes. "I like to use compost or concentrated kelp extract with the soil," says Alexander. "You can even stick an old fish in the ground with it. Or put in some old fashioned miracle grow." And don't forget to stake the plants to keep the fruits off the ground.

If you're looking for a more unusual tomato, then consider purchasing an heirloom variety. They don't produce as much fruit, but are more interesting in terms of flavors and colors. Growing tomatoes is easy, and a great way to impress guests at your next dinner party. And living in an urban area is no excuse to not take advantage of this warm weather fruit. Patio tomatoes -- the name comes from the fact that they have a compact vine and can easily grow in smaller containers, suitable for, well, a patio -- are also available. They simply grow a little shorter than traditional varieties-which can often exceed 10 feet tall.

Get going now and your plants should start bearing fruit around August 1 and will continue to produce until the first killing frost, which could be well into November.
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