If you’re planning to grow your own tomatoes, there are a few things you need to know. Tomatoes need lots of sunlight to ripen fruit.
Before you plant tomato seeds, cover the planting area with black or red plastic to help warm soil temperatures and speed up germination. It’s also a good idea to wait until the soil is consistently warmer than 60 degrees Fahrenheit before you mulch the garden.
To get your tomato plants off to a good start, make sure you provide them with the right growing conditions. Tomatoes thrive in rich, well-draining soil with a pH range of 6.5 to 6.8 and adequate air circulation.
To ensure consistent watering, use drip irrigation systems or soaker hoses to keep the soil moist at all times. Never let the soil dry out between waterings, as this will cause rot in the skin of your tomatoes.
Tomato plants also like a generous layer of mulch around them to help conserve soil moisture and discourage weeds. A 3- to 4-inch thick layer of organic mulch, such as straw or chopped leaves, is ideal.
When transplanting, bury two-thirds of the stem to allow new roots to grow. This will help your plant develop a stronger root system and help it better handle drought.
Tomato plants are heavy feeders, and fertilizing them properly is essential to ensure they have the nutrients they need to produce their best crop possible.
Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are all crucial to tomato plant growth and development. The key is to select a tomato fertilizer that contains the nutrients in proper ratios at different stages of the plant’s lifecycle, according to Laura Hawks, owner of the Tomato Lover’s Gardening Cooperative.
During the early growing stages, nitrogen is a necessary nutrient that keeps the foliage green and healthy. However, too much nitrogen can cause the plant to become bushy and lack blooms.
Phosphorous, on the other hand, is needed to develop strong roots and promote fruit production. Fertilizers with high phosphorous levels can be especially beneficial during this stage of development, as the nutrients will help your plant set fruits more easily.
Watering your tomato plants is an essential part of keeping them healthy and producing tasty fruits. Getting the timing and frequency of watering right is key for a successful crop.
The amount of water you give your tomatoes will vary based on soil type, temperature, and location. It is best to watch for signs of overwatering or underwatering and make adjustments as needed.
Tomatoes also benefit from a layer of mulch to conserve moisture and suppress weed growth. Apply 2-3 inches of organic mulch such as weed free straw or bark chips after the soil has had a chance to warm up.
Ideally, water your tomato plants in the morning so they can absorb water and get photosynthesis going. Overhead watering can spread diseases, so it is best to water at the soil line and use a flexible drip hose.
Pruning your tomato plants will keep them a manageable size and improve airflow, making harvesting easier. It will also help your tomato plants produce larger tomatoes in the long run.
If your plant is a determinate variety, pruning will not be necessary as these types of tomatoes produce all their fruit at one time during the season.
However, if you have an indeterminate variety that is growing unruly, it may benefit from pruning back to promote a strong central stem.
Suckers, or side shoots, that grow in the ‘V’ space between a branch and the main stem are best removed with pruning shears to reduce damage to the plant.
When suckers are smaller, they’re easy to pinch off with your fingers or snap off with a clean snipping tool. But as they get bigger and thicker, use shears to make the job quicker.