Growing Vegetables

Tomato Planting and Growing Tips

Tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetables and many people want to grow them in their gardens. This tasty vegetable can be used in many different ways and in many meals, so it’s not surprising that it’s very popular. You can eat the fresh fruit just taken from the vine, or you can use tomatoes to make salads, sauces, soups, juice, burgers, chili, salsa, pizza sauce, pasta sauce, ketchup, and more. There are so many ways to use tomatoes that it’s clear this vegetable is valuable in every home. Tomatoes and tomato based products are used throughout the year, almost on a daily basis. It’s therefore not surprising that tomatoes are so popular.

However, they can also be expensive. Not to mention that you can’t always control the quality of commercially grown tomatoes. To have the tasty, healthy and strong tomatoes, it’s best to grow your own. This is the only way to ensure that the vegetables you eat are truly healthy and safe for use, without any chemical compounds.

Tomato Planting Tips

Here are some useful tips and guidelines you should follow when planting your own tomatoes. There are several factors you should take into account:

  • Where to plant your tomatoes
  • When to plant tomatoes
  • How to plant tomatoes

Where to plant? It’s best to choose a sunny, bright location to plant tomatoes. It’s important to plant them in the very sunny spot, the warmest you can find in your garden. The more sun and warmth, the stronger and healthier your tomatoes will be. Also, keep in mind that it’s important to rotate where you plant your tomatoes from year to year. Don’t plant tomatoes in the same spot year after year. This can rob the soil of all the nutrients so the plants will become weaker and prone to disease.

When to plant? Tomatoes need warmth, so they are some of the last plants you will plant in your garden. To grow tomatoes successfully, it’s important to provide them with warm soil and warm weather. If planted too early, while the weather is still cold, the tomatoes will struggle. Cold temperatures, damp spring and occasional frost will make your tomatoes susceptible to disease and rot, and their growth will be slow and lethargic. The exact time of planting will depend on your climate, but it’s important that the weather outside is warm enough. For many places, it means mid May, not before. In some cases you might need to wait til the end of May to plant your tomatoes.

How to plant? Tomatoes need fertile, rich soil, so make sure to add some compost in the hole when you plant them. Save the egg shells and crush them to add them to the planting hole. Crushed egg shells are a great supplement to the soil and they will help your tomatoes grow strong and healthy. They will add the much needed calcium to the soil as they break down, so they will prevent the blossom rot, which is a common problem with tomatoes. You will recognize blossom rot as the black spots on the ends of tomatoes. Add some crushed egg shells per planting hole to prevent this problem.

medium_39266302

Care Tips

Mulching with compost around plants will give your tomatoes some boosting. This will also keep the area around tomatoes free of weeds. Therefore, it’s important to add some compost to your tomatoes. The layer of compost needed for mulching should be 1 to 2 inches thick. This will create 6-8 compost circle around each tomato stalk. It will also help regulating soil temperature and it will help you keep weeds to a minimum. Also, it helps prevent soil eroding during rains. Most importantly, compost acts as a slow-release fertilizer and it helps your tomatoes grow strong and healthy. One word of warning: mulching should be applied only when the soil is warm enough. Cold soil will stay cold longer if mulch is applied because the mulch can prevent the soil from heating up.

Another thing to keep in mind is pruning. Tomatoes should be pruned a few inches from the bottom of the plant. This will alow for easier watering, as well as increased air and light distribution. In turn, it makes for more healthier plants. It’s also advisable to prune out the bottom 3-4 inches of stems and shoots as the plants grow in the first months. This will make your tomatoes easier to water. It also ensures better water circulation and makes more difficult for pests to reach your tomatoes.

Make sure to provide a good support for your growing tomatoes. You can use cages, stakes or another supporting system. Whatever works for you is the good way to go, but it’s important to have something to support your tomatoes. This support system will keep them off the ground, which is important. When tomatoes are off the ground, they are away from pests and you can’t accidentally step on them. This will allow tomatoes to mature with excellent air circulation, the best exposure to sunlight and optimal growing conditions, away from pests and damages.

When it comes to watering, it’s important to always water around the base of the plants and not on the leaves. This makes it easier for water to reach the roots and it prevents mold from growing. With watering, it’s important to choose the right amount and the right time of day to water. You should never water your tomatoes (or your garden in general) during the heat of the day. You will lose mulch to evaporation and you can burn the plant’s foliage. The best time to water is between sunrise and mid-morning. This is when it’s cooler and it’s easier for the gardener to perform this task. Also, this is a great time for your plants because they are not stressing from the heat of the day. The next best choice is evening watering. It is a good way to go, but there’s a risk of mildew if you keep the water sitting on the leaves throughout the nights, especially if they are cool. However, it’s still a much better option than watering during the heat of the day. Remember: whatever you do, it’s important to water your tomatoes during the colder parts of the day, never during the warmest hours.

The amount of water is another important question. Young tomato plants in the first week or so need daily watering. This will help your plants get established. After this, you should not water your tomatoes every day. Keep in mind that established tomatoes will need about 1 inch of water per week. Often, the rains will provide this water amount, so you should water only if there are no rains. If the weather is very dry, you should water your tomatoes every 2-3 days using about 1/2 inch of water. This will allow for enough water to reach deep into the soil and make long roots. This is the main reason why you shouldn’t water every day with less amount of water. Plants that get small amounts of water every day can’t set long roots. Their roots are positioned shallow in the soil and it makes for weak root systems, which in turn makes for weak plants.

Another thing to keep in mind is fertilizing. As you probably know, fertile soil leads to green, healthy plants. You can provide your tomatoes with a bit of natural boost, so you can water them with compost tea. Compost is a good, organic solution and a great fertilizer for tomatoes. Compost will make for a fertile soil and it will make tomatoes grow healthy and strong. You should use compost in the planting holes during planting, and you should also add it on top, as top dressing. You can also work in green manure and use cover crops in the fall or spring to make the soil more fertile. Another thing to keep in mind is to always practice plant rotation. For boosting your tomatoes, a compost tea is a great way to go. This tea is made by simply mixing some fresh compost with water. The water will absorb all the nutrients in the compost so this becomes a natural, organic liquid fertilizer. Apply it to the soil around the base of your tomatoes and make sure never to place any of them on the leaves because it can burn them. It’s best to do this a few times early in the growing season to give your tomatoes some strong start. This will make them thrive and grow healthy and strong, which will result in larger, super-tasty fruit.

Photo credit: Ben McLeod via photopin cc