Growing tomatoes is often the driving force behind starting a vegetable garden, and every tomato lover dreams of growing the perfect tomato that is firm yet succulent, sweet but tangy and flawless.
Unfortunately, few vegetables are more problematic than tomatoes. The secret to growing great-tasting tomatoes is choosing the best varieties, planting them correctly, and managing them before problems arise. Start with time-tested tomato growing tips so you can be proud of your tomatoes this year.
When it comes to growing tomatoes, there are some things every gardener should know, from how to water and fertilize your plants to choosing the right variety of tomato. This post shares ten of the best gardening tips for growing tomatoes.
1. Determinate or indeterminate tomatoes
Determinate tomato plants grow to a predetermined size, usually 3 to 4 feet tall, and produce their fruits all at once.
Indeterminate varieties continue to grow and produce tomatoes all along the stems throughout the growing season. Indeterminate plants need extra-tall supports of at least 5 feet
2. Grow your seeds early
When grown indoors under ideal conditions, tomato seeds will germinate in 5-7 days and take 6-8 weeks to grow from seed to ready-to-plant seedlings. It is best to plant the tomato seeds indoors about 4-6 weeks before the last expected frost, transplant the seedlings to increase root mass, and give them time to properly settle to create a sturdy, healthy plant.
3. Transplant tomatoes twice to strengthen the stem and increase the root mass
Tomatoes are one of the few plants that like to bury their stems in the soil. This is most evident if you put the tomato vines on the ground and forget to support them upright, then come back a few weeks later and discover that the vines are firmly rooted in the soil.
This in turn means stronger, healthier plants that need less irrigation and fertilization because their extensive root system can reach deeper into the soil, pulling up moisture and nutrients.
4. Choose a location with full sun
Sunlight is free and is one of the most important aspects of growing tomatoes.
Provide plants with at least 8 hours of sunlight per day for a good harvest. In climates where temperatures regularly rise above 29 degrees Celsius, provide partial shade. Tomatoes tend to flower and the fruit may not ripen at high temperatures.
Shade plants and do not cover them. The cover only traps heat and moisture, creating a greenhouse effect. Use sunshade fabrics, muslin, or a thin, light-colored fabric that allows air and sunlight to pass through.
6. Don't Crowd Tomato Seedlings
Tomatoes are deep-rooted, wide-spread plants, the more space you give them, the more fruit you get.
Leave at least 2-3 feet between indeterminate tomatoes on the floor or 1 1/2-2 feet between determined species. If you are growing tomatoes from seed, leave enough space on the seedlings for branching. This means thinning the seedlings into one strong plant or small pollen per cell. Cut weak and small seedlings for better growers. Cramped conditions inhibit growth, causing stress and, consequently, disease.
When grown in containers, tomato plants can be quite susceptible to blossom end rot. To avoid this you'll want to ensure that your tomatoes have plenty of room to grow, that you're watering regularly enough, and that you're paying attention to the pH levels of their water (tomatoes should ideally have a pH around 6).
6. Richly fertilize the soil
Tomatoes are nutritious and will germinate well throughout the season if they get enough phosphorus, calcium and other essential nutrients.
However, if the plant does not have yellow leaves, avoid fertilizers with a high nitrogen content, which will give you lots of foliage but no flowers.
7. Water deeply, but less frequently
Tomatoes have strong roots and will grow if left alone. Watering the plant deeply and thoroughly in the root area once or twice a week encourages the roots to penetrate deep into the soil.
This is because tomato plants that receive only a small amount of water each time (even more frequently) have a tendency for the roots to gather near the soil surface.
Farmers can use a Farmshield which is an AI powered sensor to allow you regulate the moisture in the soil.
8. Cut the lower leaves
When the tomato plant is about 3 feet tall, remove the leaves from the bottom of the stem. These are the oldest leaves and are usually the first to cause fungal problems. As the plant fills, the lower leaves receive the least amount of sun and air.
As the tomato plant grows, the lower part turns yellow due to inadequate sunlight.
9. Make use of mulch
When tomatoes are more than 6 inches tall (smaller than that can cause suffocation), apply generous amounts of organic mulch over the soil, taking care of the tomato plant so as not to break.
Good mulch retains moisture, prevents weed growth, and regulates soil temperature. Mulching saves water and prevents the soil and soil diseases from attacking plants, but can provide shade and cool the soil if sprayed too early. Tomatoes love warmth, so let the sun warm the soil. As the temperature warms up day and night, you can add a cover to keep the moisture.
10. Pinch and Prune for More Tomatoes
Remove the sucker from the two perineal junctions by pinching. They will not bear fruit but will eat more energy from the rest of the plant. But do not cut the rest of the plant.
You can thin out a few leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it is the leaves that produce the sugars and photosynthesize the tomatoes to give them flavor. Fewer leaves means fewer sweet tomatoes.
For many farmers, growing a delicious, sun-ripened tomato is the last resort. In good weather, tomatoes are usually easy to grow. But choosing the right varieties and keeping your plants healthy and productive requires both art and science. Then, once you have reaped the benefits, the question arises as to what you should do with the excess. From harvesting and storage to shopping and usage, caring for the best tomato processes will ensure a productive season and give you a foothold in planting next year’s crops.
In the end, growing tomatoes can be a rewarding experience. Not only will you have delicious homegrown tomatoes ripe for eating and canning come harvest time, but you will marvel at your results: the simple act of taking a few tiny seeds, watering them, and waiting for them to grow into big healthy plants from which you can gather a whole year's worth of mouth watering tomatoes. You'll never regret growing a garden.