Tomatoes are susceptible to low night and day temperatures, causing blossom drop and reduced fruit set. To counter this effect, provide shade or mulch the soil to maintain an ideal environment and ensure proper temperature regulation.
Select varieties that mature quickly for short-season gardens and which resist disease and pests. A soil test can help identify pH levels as well as any deficiencies. Compost or well-rotted manure should also be included with planting sites, while using complete garden fertilizers at planting time and throughout the growing season can enhance results.
Tomatoes thrive best when planted in deep, loose, well-draining soil rich with organic matter and with an acidic pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Add compost, aged manure or worm castings as mulch before planting your tomato seeds. Since tomatoes are heavy feeders, consistent supplement fertilization must also be provided – mix in an on-demand product such as Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules while digging planting holes then continue feeding as directed on their labels.
Tomato plants grow quickly and are vulnerable to insect and disease damage. Regularly check them for signs of pests or diseases and keep records, in order to recognize common issues and try and prevent repeat offenders next year. Rotate the location of your garden each year so as to stop soil-borne illnesses spreading; tomatoes require good air circulation for healthy growth and avoidance of disease.
Outdoor tomato plants should receive full day of sunlight to reach maturity and ripen fully. In regions with shorter growing seasons, consider using warming aids such as black plastic sheeting or hoop houses to extend the growing season and maximize fruit yield.
Plant each tomato seed deep enough to cover its top few leaves while still burying most of its stem, yet don’t drive your support stake or cage into this portion of its stem – this will encourage more roots, healthier plant, and increased fruit production.
Mulch can help conserve moisture and suppress weeds, but beware that applying it before the ground has had time to warm up – typically early June – is key. Applying mulch too early will cause its roots to remain cool and slow fruit development which in turn reduces yield.
Tomatoes make great companion plants and can benefit from being located nearby other vegetables, herbs and flowers such as beans, broccoli, kale, squash as well as herbs such as basil, chives, cilantro, parsley and mint. Companion planting increases crop success while simultaneously deterring insect infestations such as aphids, thrips, flea beetles and squash bugs.
Tomato plants are heavy feeders that need plenty of nutrients from the soil. They also have a reputation for being prone to disease and pests. Fortunately, the best ways to protect tomatoes are good cultural practices and preventive measures.
Tomatoes grow best in warm, well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Soil that is too sandy or clay-like can result in stunted growth and poor fruit. To improve soil, mix in organic matter or amend it with compost. Tomatoes also need consistent moisture, but if watering is excessive or frequent, tomato plant stems and leaves may become distorted — a condition called tip burn. Excessive moisture can also lead to blossom end rot, a condition in which the bottom of the fruit develops a black, rotting spot. To prevent this, water consistently but infrequently.
Sow seeds 6-8 weeks before the average frost date in your area, spacing them 1/4-inch deep in a seed-growing medium. Keep the soil moist and provide abundant light until the tomato plant develops its first set of true leaves. After that, reduce light to 16 hours a day. Once the weather is warm enough, transplant seedlings outdoors or into containers. Gradually acclimate tomato plants to outdoor temperatures to avoid shock.
Space larger indeterminate tomatoes 3 feet apart in rows 4 to 5 feet apart and smaller bush varieties 2 to 3 feet apart. Crowded tomato plants cannot support themselves adequately and their fruit may not ripen.
When planting a new crop, place a layer of mulch (organic material such as grass clippings or shredded leafy greens) around the base of each plant to conserve water and suppress weeds. Mulch also helps prevent nematodes and other unwanted organisms from damaging tomato roots.
As tomato plants grow, tie them to stakes for support. Remove the small side shoots that appear at the angles between the main stem and the top two to three leaves, and pinch out growing tips as needed to focus the plant’s energy on producing fruit. If tomatoes are heavily laden, staking the plant will help prevent them from falling over and becoming damaged by wind.
Tomato plants that are neglected tend to become lanky and spindly, more susceptible to disease and using energy in producing vines and flower clusters that take resources away from fruit production. Plants pruned regularly grow stronger, healthier and produce more fruit.
Determinate and indeterminate tomato varieties alike benefit from regular pruning. At the initial stages of growth it’s a good idea to prune off any leaves touching the ground – tomato diseases like septoria and blight tend to spread through wet leaves from soil exposure; when this happens rain or watering can spread spores directly onto lower leaves from above – further increasing disease spread and spreading its impact across multiple rows of leaves.
Remove any suckers that appear at the armpits of your plant (where leaf stem meets main stalk). Suckers compete with main plant for resources and may sap energy away from fruiting; by eliminating these suckers, more energy can go to main stems which will produce larger and more fruits tomatoes.
As the season advances, it is advisable to remove any extra flowers or fruit that appear blemished or misshapen. Fasciated blossoms (those strange-shaped heirloom tomatoes with crevices and cracks) begin as regular blossoms but eventually split off into multiple individual fruits that require too much energy for production – pinching these off can prevent excess energy being used up creating individual fruits from leading to rot in larger tomatoes.
Pruning indeterminate tomatoes will keep them under control and promote proper branching, helping reduce disease incidence by giving space for air circulation. Vining plants such as indeterminate tomatoes can quickly grow up to seven feet tall without adequate support, often needing stakes or supports tied directly into them for support or regular tieing to control growth and ensure air flow. Pruning them helps them remain manageable while giving better shape while providing more breathing room which may reduce disease incidence.
Once your plants have become established, using mulch as an aid for moisture conservation and deterring weeds is recommended to help conserve soil moisture while simultaneously adding flavorful organic matter into the soil to boost flavor of tomatoes grown there. A layer of well-rotted manure or garden compost will not only conserve moisture in your soil, but will also add flavor by enriching its composition with more organic matter than previously available.
Tomatoes require an extended growing season and should be planted as transplants rather than seeds in early spring, when conditions have warmed up. Gardeners typically purchase tomato plants from garden centers or nurseries; they can also grow them from seed indoors. When choosing transplants, select those with dark green color and straight, sturdy stems about the size of a pencil; any yellowing leaves, stress marks or fruit already blooming should be avoided as well as those displaying any flowers or fruit already showing.
Tomato plants thrive best in deep, loamy soil that’s rich in organic matter and essential nutrients. Soil testing is an invaluable way to determine your soil’s needs, such as its acidity (pH) level or any nutritional gaps present; testing can be completed either at home or by your county extension agent and will reveal any necessary improvements or deficiencies that might affect plant growth negatively; an excessively acidic environment could hinder its health, while too little nutrient availability could reduce yields or cause diseases to surface affecting tomato plants’ growth negatively.
Before planting, amend your soil with compost or organic matter to improve its texture and fertility. For heavy or clay soil types, planting cover crops could help break up clay formation and enrich its properties for planting purposes.
Once planted, tomato plants should be watered thoroughly to settle the soil and prevent root rot. Mulching can help conserve moisture while suppressing weeds; an additional layer of weed free straw or bark chips may help warm and stimulate fruit ripening. However, any mulch must be removed once flowering begins in order to avoid early blight disease which is caused by fungal infections in the soil.
Water tomato plants regularly, applying 1-1 1/2 inches of water weekly. Water deeply but avoid oversaturating the soil, as too much or infrequent watering stresses out plants and can lead to fungal diseases, like leaf spot and blossom end rot. Morning is generally best as this allows foliage and fruit to dry faster, thus decreasing chances of disease. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems are excellent ways to directly supply roots of plants with needed moisture, eliminating overhead watering altogether.