Let me ask you a question. When planting tomato plants do you follow any “rules” or do you simply plant and hope for the best?
Garden tomatoes are just as tasty to insects and birds as they are to us, and low hanging tomatoes can even become lunch for terrapins!
Although many people believe tomatoes are a foolproof crop, the fact is you do need to know a thing or two in order to grow tomatoes successfully.
In this article, we will share ten smart tips and techniques many successful gardeners follow when planting their tomatoes.
Not following these tips and techniques are the mistake ways to many gardeners make!
Hopefully, you’ll so be on your way to growing the best tomatoes.
Make Sure To Select the Right Tomatoes for Your Growing Conditions
It’s important to be realistic about the space you have. If you have only limited space or are doing container gardening, you will want to select determinant tomatoes. These are tomatoes that only grow to a given size.
Patio tomatoes are a good example. This type of tomato has a thicker stalk that can support the weight of the plant and fruit without a tomato cage or trellis. Additionally, this type of plant never needs to be pruned because it only grows to a specific size.
If you have lots of space, you will want to select indeterminate tomato plants. These will keep them growing until they run out of space.
They need quite a bit of attention and care because you must stake them or place a cage around them to provide support. You will also need to prune tomatoes to encourage good growth and discourage fungus.
In terms of production, indeterminate plants produce more and have a longer producing season. Determinant plants are somewhat limited in the number of tomatoes they will produce and the length of time that they can produce.
Do You “Harden” Your Seedlings Before Planting Tomatoes In The Garden?
You cannot simply set your tomato seedlings outside into the garden and expect them to survive. They need to be introduced to the elements gradually so that they can become used to them and hardened to them. This acclimation process takes several days.
Begin when your tomato seeds are approximately a month old. Set them out for a few hours on a mild day in indirect light. They should not be exposed to rain, harsh sunlight or excessive temperatures (either hot or cold) at this point.
Give your seedlings a little bit more time outdoors every day for a week to ten days. At the end of this time, they should be hardened and prepared for life outdoors.
Be Sure To Provide Enough Space For The Tomato Varieties You’re Growing
It’s very tempting to plant tomatoes close together when the plants are small.
Remember that from the time they are seedlings until the time they are mature they will put on several feet of growth both upwards and from side to side.
If you plant these tomato cultivars too close together, they will not be able to attain their full potential. They will become stunted.
Each of your tomato plants should have its own tomato cage for support. These tomato cages should be placed 1- 1/2 to 2 feet apart. This placement will give your plants plenty of space to sprawl and grow while being firmly supported by the surrounding cage.
Be sure to provide adequate support for each plant to prevent having the leaves or fruit touch the ground. This can cause blossom-end rot which can lead to the death of your tomato plant.
The Many Ways You Can “Cage” Tomatoes: Video
Do You Plant Your Tomatoes In Enough Sun?
All fruit producing plants need a minimum of seven hours of bright sunlight every day.
Plants depend upon the light of the sun for the process of photosynthesis which feeds the plant and helps it produce abundant amounts of fruit.
If your tomato plants do not get enough sun, they’ll be attractive and leafy; however, they will not produce a good tomato crop.
Related Reading: More on Caring For Tomato Plants
Does The Soil Provide Adequate Drainage For Your Tomatoes?
Because tomatoes are so prone to fungal infection, it is very important that your tomato bed be well drained.
Water Tomatoes Correctly Will Improve The Yield!
Be sure to establish a regular watering schedule for your tomato plants. Provide a couple of inches of water once a week directly to the soil when the sun is out.
Avoid spraying the leaves because this can cause tomato blight and blossom end rot. You want to try to keep your tomato leaves and main stem dry and the well-drained soil beneath the plants moist.
A soaker hose is a good investment for your tomato patch.
Do You Provide The The Right Amount Of Fertilizer For Your Plants ?
It is just as detrimental to allow nutrients to build up excessively in your soil as it is to deplete them excessively.
If you provide too much fertilizer, nitrogen may build up in the soil and cause your tomato plants to produce lots of lovely leaves but no tomatoes.
When you shop for fertilizer, be sure to purchase types that are especially made for tomato plants. Alternately, use only all-natural compost.
Recommnded Reading: How To Read Fertilizer Numbers
Reasons Why You Should Prune Your Tomatoes Regularly
Indeterminate tomatoes need to be pruned from time-to-time because when they are overcrowded disease and fungus can run rampant.
The reason for this is that water tends to accumulate in crowded plants. You must prune regularly to provide good air circulation to keep your leaves and stems dry.
Additionally, when you do not prune your tomato plants, they use up a lot of the nutrients you provide to grow leaves instead of tomatoes. This is not what you want!
Be sure to prune off sucker stems larger stems to produce more and larger fruit.
Keep Eyes Peeled To Treat Early Blight Promptly and Properly
Early Blight is a fungal infection that strikes tomatoes especially hard. As mentioned, fungus can be the result of overcrowding.
If you notice damaged (blighted) leaves on your tomato plants, you must prune them off. Be sure to sterilize your shears after pruning so that you do not spread blight from one plant to another.
Always keep your eyes peeled for early blight (browning of the leaves).
It appears on the lower leaves first and moves up the plant. If you are not diligent, you may not notice it. Keep a watchful eye, prune as necessary and use organic fungicide to discourage the development of blight.
If you have problems with early blight one year, do not plant tomatoes in that area the next year. The reason for this is that this fungus can survive in the soil through the winter.
Aside from this, it is always a good idea to rotate your crops so that your soil does not become entirely depleted of any given nutrient.
Be Sure To Control Tomato Worms
A tomato hornworm infestation can devastate your entire crop. Keep a close eye out for these caterpillar invaders.
When you see them, pick them off by hand and dispose of them properly and in a way that will prevent them from returning.
While it may be tempting to spray your tomato plants with insecticide to kill green tomato worms, try to resist this temptation.
Remember that the tomatoes your plants produce will also be affected by that insecticide and so will you! Additionally, insecticide kills insects, including bees, butterflies, pest devouring praying mantis and other beneficial insects.
Plant A Wide Variety Of Tomatoes To Have Fruit Ripening At Different Times
It’s smart to plant several different varieties of tomato that ripen at different times. In this way, you will not be deluged with a bumper mono-crop of tomatoes all at once.
Instead, you will have choices among several types of tomatoes throughout the growing season.
Different types and sizes of tomatoes are better suited to a variety of purposes.
For example, beefsteak tomatoes are better suited sliced on sandwiches, while cherry tomatoes are great for snacking.
Plum tomatoes are excellent for cooking and Cherokee Purple makes a colorful and flavorful addition chopped up in a salad.
Good Care Yields Good Tomatoes
As garden veggies go, tomatoes are fairly easy to care for; however, it is important that you follow a few guidelines for best results. Refer to the ten handy tips presented here as you plan, plant and harvest your tomato patch!