How to Grow Terrific Tomatoes
Growing terrific tomatoes does not happen overnight. There are many theories about the proper way to grow tomatoes from using the correct soil preparation to proper planting techniques followed by regular maintenance of the tender plants.
It may get overwhelming. However, when you bite into that delicious, sweet tomato, you know that all your hard work was well worth it.
Top Tips on Growing Terrific Tomatoes
How does the average homeowner grow amazing tomatoes? Here are our top tips to help you grow terrific tomatoes.
Amend Your Soil
All garden vegetables start with good soil and that means your pH needs to be between 6 and 6.8. Plants can’t get to nutrients they need if your pH is too high or low, even if the nutrients are actually in the soil. To grow the best vegetables, you need to test your soil before you begin, and for tomatoes, get ready to amend it quite a bit.
If you don’t have a pile of aged compost and/or aged manure (horse, cow, chicken – it all works) on hand, you can try a couple of other methods:
- Buy Black Kow at your local garden center. This product is full of compost and other nutrients all of your plants will love. However, you are going to need a ton of it. Basically, you can’t put too many nutrients into the soil for tomatoes.
- Miracle-Gro® All Purpose Garden Soil – not potting soil – is another good alternative. It isn’t as organic as some of the other methods but many gardeners swear by it and it is everywhere.
- Leftover leaves make a great addition to the soil and they are full of nutrients. Chop them up and blend them in while you are amending your soil.
As a reminder, tomato plants require a lot and they have a long root system. So, if you are only amending your top two inches of soil, you aren’t giving a tomato plant everything it needs. You should aim to have 6-12 inches of good, nutrient- rich soil by the end.
It should go without saying, but tomatoes are one of those plants that thrive and perform fully in the hottest, sunniest months of summer. So, definitely choose a sunny location for your tomato plants. They need at least 6 hours of full sunlight every day.
Transplant Your Tomatoes
Tomato seeds can be started directly in the ground. It is best to start the seeds indoors and transplant them later. You can also buy baby tomato plants to put in your garden once all fear of frost has passed.
Here’s why. Tomato plants are one of the few kinds of plants that will grow new roots on every surface area of its stem that touches the soil.
If you grow your tomato plant indoors up to 4 inches tall, you can transplant that plant (after hardening) by stripping off all but the top four leaves and sticking two inches of the stem into the ground. A deeper and more robust root system will ensure the plant will stay healthy.
In addition, don’t plant your plants too soon. Wait until the ground is warm. Yes, you can extend growing season by covering your amended soil with black gardening plastic. However, the plants simply won’t thrive until the ground is warm.
Dig a Deep Hole
Each plant needs at least 24 inches of room in every direction, and some need more like 36 inches. Check for recommendations for your specific variety.
Tomato plants are prone to disease. One sure way to prevent diseases is to make sure each plant has at least two feet of air circulating in and around the leaves. This way, they can dry completely after heavy rain and receive as much sun as possible on their leaves. More sun means more fruit.
In each hole, before you plant, you should add several things:
- A handful of crushed up egg shells for calcium. Tomatoes can’t get enough of it, and in fact, if you get yellowing leaves on your plants, it’s a calcium deficiency. Here’s a trick: if you boil some eggs, don’t just throw away the water. Let it cool and pour it near the roots of your tomato plants – it’s full of calcium from the egg shells.
- A handful of worm castings.
- Sprinkle in some bone meal.
- A couple handfuls of compost.
- A tablespoon of Epsom salts for magnesium, which helps with the production of fruit.
- A couple of aspirins, which will help with fungus issues while the plant is growing.
- Add trace minerals. For example, Azomite will help the plant get healthy and will make its way into your diet as well.
Fertilize Right Away
As soon as those little plants are settled in the ground, they need to be fertilized to be off to a good start:
- Compost & worm castings on top
- Compost tea
- Fish & Seaweed fertilizer
- Miracle Grow “Quick Start” just for planting time
- Tablespoon of Epsom salts
You also need to keep fertilizing, and keep fertilizing – every two weeks they need the same cocktail. This is called “side dressing.”
The last thing you want is your tomato plants to topple and be growing along the ground for any length of time because you didn’t buy good enough stakes or cages. Just save yourself the trouble and buy a heavy cage the first time around – heavier than you think you need. It will withstand the summer storms and help your plants do so too.
Keep Up Every Day
I know – it’s starting to sound like a full-time job. I promise it’s worth it. Tomatoes need to be kept dry, clean and free of disease. You can help this by weeding immediately, mulching or adding plastic around your planting location, and pruning your tomato plants 12-18 inches off the ground.
You should never, ever let leaves or stems touch the ground because they will almost surely get a disease this way.
Last but not least, watering tomatoes correctly will keep them from getting a disease. In hot weather, water every morning, under the leaves. Never water tomato plants from the top and get their leaves wet. Of course, you can’t avoid them getting wet in the rain but if you’ve spaced them correctly, they should be able to dry out without a problem.
Basically, tomatoes need all their water – and plenty of it – at the roots and none on the leaves. This makes Rootwell Product Inc.’s Root Starter Sticks the best possible water delivery system for your tomatoes.
Root Starter Sticks are aeration sticks that allow water to penetrate into the root-zone putting water directly where it is needed preventing runoff. They also encourage tender roots to grow deeply by supplying essential nutrients and oxygen. We recommend that you use two to four Root Starter Sticks placed evenly around each tomato plant.
Root Starter Sticks can be purchased at our Retail Store.
Great tomatoes come from great soil and great care. Make sure you have all your steps in place and reap the benefits all long.