The keys to growing savory, delicious tomatoes from seed are simple yet often overlooked. These 10 simple rules will make all the difference. Tomatoes are a common crop found in most gardens. There is nothing like a fresh tomato from the garden, but sometimes growing the perfect tomato can be more difficult than anticipated. Here are 10 rules every gardener should follow when growing tomatoes:
When transplanting tomatoes, be sure to set them deep. Any part of the stem that is covered with soil will form roots. This can lead to a more robust, healthier plant.
Well-drained soil is extremely important for healthy plants. If you have soil that does not drain quickly after rain, plant your tomato plants in raised beds or on soil berms.
Mulch the plants to keep the foliage clean. Soil splashing on the lower leaves during heavy rains can have devastating affects on crops and lead to soil borne diseases.
Do not crowd your plants. Allowing air circulation and sun exposure all around can reduce the spread of foliage diseases.
Large-fruited varieties need at least 6 hours of direct sun in order for them to have a good yield. If you are growing in an area where sun is limited, cherry tomatoes are the best option.
Remember to pay attention to your plants. Wilting foliage means the plants are thirsty or suffering from disease. Troublesome critters like fruitworms, hornworms, and stinkbugs can be easily spotted and removed.
Tomatoes love heat, so it is a good idea to preheat the soil in your garden to prep for tomato planting. You can cover the planting area with black or red plastic a couple of weeks before you intend to plant. The extra degrees of soil warmth will translate into earlier, healthier tomatoes.
Once your tomato plants have reached about 3 feet tall, remove the leaved from the bottom 1 foot of the stem. These are the oldest leaves and they are usually the first to develop fungus issues. Ad the plants begin to fill out, the bottom leaves get the least amount of sun and air circulation. Since these leaves are so close to the ground, they become more susceptible to soil borne pathogens. Spraying weekly with compost tea can be an effective way to ward off fungus diseases.
Observe your crop growth and pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. These will not bear fruit and they will take energy away from the rest of the plant.
There are two types of tomato plants. Once determinate tomatoes reach a certain height, they set and ripen their fruit all at once, making a large quantity available at the same time. These tend to start flowering fairly early in the season. It is normally not hard to get these types of tomato plants to set fruit unless weather conditions are unfavorable. The large, juicy tomatoes are usually indeterminate plants. This means the plants keep growing. Tomatoes are vines, and indeterminate tomatoes reach high for the sun. These varieties normally grow tall before they begin to set fruits. If you are impatient and would like your indeterminate plants to start fruiting earlier, you can pinch off the tips of the main stems in early summer. This will encourage them to start putting their energy into flowering. This is also a handy trick toward the end of the summer, when you want the last tomatoes to ripen.
Ariana Marisol is a contributing staff writer for REALfarmacy.com. She is an avid nature enthusiast, gardener, photographer, writer, hiker, dreamer, and lover of all things sustainable, wild, and free. Ariana strives to bring people closer to their true source, Mother Nature. She is currently finishing her last year at The Evergreen State College getting her undergraduate degree in Sustainable Design and Environmental Science. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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