There is no more iconic summer vegetable than the Tomato yet there is perhaps no other vegetable that can make one gardener the envy of the neighborhood and make another gardener want to pull the hair out of his/her head! As the saying goes “it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” and everyone has their advice and suggestions on how to grow the best Tomatoes. For the sake of the sanity of your fellow gardeners’ we would encourage you to share your secrets on our Facebook page but before you do so why not check out our top 5 tips to create “TomatoMania” in your vegetable patch this year:
- Location-Many accomplished business people will tell that that the one key to building a successful business is location, location, location! Well, the same holds true for growing great Tomatoes! While they can tolerate some shade Tomatoes need a space that gets lots and lots of sunlight for at least 8 to 12 hours a day.
- Soil-Tomatoes like rich soil that is loaded with lots of organic matter such as compost. They also like that soil to be very warm so a few weeks before you are going to plant your Tomatoes you should consider laying down a roll of black or red plastic lining on your soil to get the soil nice and toasty. This will also keep the weeds down and help the soil retain moisture too. Whether or not the color of the lining makes a difference will depend upon which study you want to believe but you won’t go wrong using either color.
- Planting Your Tomatoes-As Mr. Miyagi says in The Karate Kid,” The key to success is to have a strong root”. That goes for Tomatoes too! The more roots the better and Tomatoes grow roots all the way up their stem. This means when you dig a hole to plant the root ball make sure it is extra deep and wide so you can also plant the stem in the hole up to about a foot below the first set of leaves. I also include a teaspoon or two of powdered lime in the hole as this helps prevent a disease known as blossom rot which causes the bottom of the Tomato to get black and rotten when the fruit first starts to appear and mature. Some gardeners substitute egg shells for the powdered lime in the hole so you can try some both ways and see what works best for you. Finally, I think it is a good practice to plant several varieties of Tomatoes so you increase the odds of finding the variety that works best in your location and you can also do a second planting of Tomatoes about 3 weeks after the first planting so that the fruit doesn’t all mature at the same time!
- Watering-Tomatoes can be thirsty plants; particularly during the hottest days in the summer. Maintaining a consistent moisture level in the soil is important when the fruit appears as variations in moisture content can also contribute to the aforementioned blossom rot disease. That black or red plastic that you put down earlier in the season will be helpful but some additional mulching is going to be necessary. I wait to apply the mulch until the fruit starts appearing and then make sure the plants get at least 1” of water each week. You’ll develop a better root system if you water deeply a few times a week rather than on a daily basis and you might consider a drip irrigation system to assist you with this task.
- Fertilization-Tomatoes desire a lot of fertilizer but that doesn’t mean you should give it to them! Too much fertilizer means a lot of green vines but not necessarily a lot of Tomatoes! I prefer to not fertilize the plants too early in the season and actually start fertilizing them when the fruit is actually starting to appear. I also prefer using a liquid fertilizer as scratching a granular fertilizer into the ground can damage those important roots. If you use a liquid fertilizer try not to spray the leaves as this can promote diseases.
So there you have our favorite tips for growing great Tomatoes. I can almost taste them now…
Photo courtesy of Jill Mazur