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The Annual Tomato Crapshoot

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No room to grow tomatoes? Buchanan's Native Plants on 11th St. near Heights Blvd. has this cute tomato kit on sale right now. It will fit on your porch, patio or balcony. They sell you the pot, the dirt, the fertilizer and the cage -- then you pick any tomato plant you want for free. (Heirlooms are extra.)

So how many tomatoes would you have to grow to justify a $40 investment? I have paid five bucks apiece for heirlooms, so at that rate it would only take eight tomatoes. I think you could count on eight tomatoes out of one plant if you get started now - that is, unless it freezes again and you have to start over. So should you wait for the weather to get warmer?

Depends on what kind of gambler you are. Tomato plants take 65 to 80 days to mature. If you plant some right now, you aren't going to have any tomatoes until it's almost May. And the plants stop bearing tomatoes when it gets too warm for the fruit to set. Some varieties tolerate the heat better than others, bearing longer into the summer. But generally you can forget about tomatoes in south Texas after the Fourth of July. The earlier you plant, the more tomatoes you get -- if they survive.

As they say in Vegas: Good luck!

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