Tomatoes were unknown to the world until Spanish explorers returned from South America and introduced them to Spain in the 1500's. For many years tomatoes were thought to be poisonous. It was not until the 1800's that people started to consume them as a food. Since then the tomato has become the second most important vegetable crop, exceeded only by the potato. CULTURE: Tomatoes are a warm season crop. Best started indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost. SOIL: Tomatoes prefer deep, welldrained fertile loam, but will grow on most types of soil free from a hardpan. pH 6-6.5 FERTILITY: Tomatoes need moderately high amounts of fertilizer throughout the growing season. 1-2-1 ratio for most soils. Regular yearly applications of rotted manure is beneficial. Calcium and magnesium are usually needed where tomatoes were grown before. Consistent watering reduces foliar and fruit problems. GERMINATION: 5-10 days at 70-75F/21-24C. Keep in light to prevent stretching. Transplant at 'true 4 leaf stage' into bigger containers (P-804 cell-paks or 4" pots). SPACING: Transplant out to 24" between plants, 6 feet between rows. Use wider row spacing when you do not stake or prune the plants. PESTS: Tomato hornworm attacks foliage in midseason, stripping the leaves bare. Control worms by removing and exterminating them. To control the various diseases that attack tomato plants, try these methods: crop rotation-do not grow tomatoes where there have been tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, or eggplants in the last 3 years; use stakes and mulches to reduce the moisture that spreads blight on the plant leaves.