by Jennifer Poindexter
Do you have a favorite vegetable to grow? My husband’s garden-favorite is a tomato. Over the years, I’ve become pretty good at growing them. If you’d like to learn how to grow amazing tomatoes in your garden, you’re in the right place.
Over the last decade, I’ve made many mistakes when raising this crop. I’ve also learned a great deal from each mistake. Through these experiences, I’ve learned what it takes to grow gorgeous tomato plants. Realize, there are times Mother Nature can throw you a curveball. However, these tips might help you to produce gorgeous tomatoes, so long as it’s in your control.
Here are my top tips for raising tomatoes in the garden.
1. Stake Them
Tomatoes can become top-heavy plants. If left to their own methods, the plants will become weighed down by the tomatoes they produce.
You’ll either end up with tomatoes growing all over the ground, or the stems of the plants will break. Either way, you’re opening your plants up to disease.
Plus, the tomatoes will rot easier if left on the ground. Therefore, you should avoid all of this mess by staking your tomatoes as they grow. It will need to be done approximately once or twice a week during the growing season.
2. Give Them Light
Tomatoes love the sunshine. They need to be planted where they’ll receive full sunlight. If you don’t have a gardening space where the plants will receive six to eight hours of light, consider planting them in containers.
This will allow you to move your plants with the sun. Otherwise, you could grow your tomatoes indoors under a grow light.
There are multiple ways to ensure tomatoes receive the right amount of light. Do what it takes to provide the growing conditions this crop needs.
3. Don’t Plant Too Many
My husband gets overzealous when it comes to tomatoes. He wants to plant them all! Every year, I must reign him in, or I’d have more tomatoes than I could possibly care for.
If you love growing tomatoes, too, do yourself a favor and don’t plant too many. By growing too many tomato plants, there’s a chance you can’t take care of them all.
This will lead to a crowded growing area which welcomes disease. Also, it could prove difficult to notice pests moving into your garden. Grow tomatoes but be realistic about how many plants you can care for.
4. Plant at the Right Time
This is another tip I must remind my husband of each year. As the weather warms up, it’s normal to want to get outside and begin planting.
It’s especially true if you’re someone who loves gardening. However, tomatoes shouldn’t be the first plant to go in the ground.
In fact, they shouldn’t be planted until all threats of frost are over. If you want to give your grow season a boost, begin growing tomato seeds indoors. Otherwise, sit tight until the frost has passed to ensure you plant when the tomatoes have the greatest chance to thrive.
5. They Need Calcium
I don’t plant tomatoes without giving them a boost of calcium. I do this by sprinkling powdered milk around the base of the plant.
If your plants don’t have enough calcium, they’ll have issues with blossom end rot. You won’t realize it until your tomatoes are ready to be picked.
As you’re picking, you’ll notice the bottoms are rotten. You can correct the issue with calcium. However, I prefer to stay ahead of it by supplying calcium upfront to avoid the issue all together.
6. Don’t Ignore Pests and Diseases
I can’t stress this enough. If you want healthy tomato plants, don’t ignore pests and diseases. Look at your plants daily.
If you notice signs of disease, start correcting it immediately. If you notice that your plants have been snacked on, begin looking for the culprit.
Once you have an idea of what’s munching on your plants, begin treating it immediately. It’s important to protect your harvest by giving pests and diseases the boot.
7. Add Mulch
Mulch is wonderful in the garden for a few reasons. First, it helps keep the weeds down around your plants.
The second reason is it helps your plants retain necessary moisture. If you’re trying to absorb moisture while battling weeds, mulch could be your answer.
However, mulch also helps keep soil off your plants. This can help protect them from potential exposure to disease. As you can tell, mulch is a great friend to the gardener.
8. Water Properly
There is a right way and wrong way to water tomatoes. They should be watered deeply to encourage stronger root systems.
This means you’ll add more water at one time to your plants. Don’t apply anymore without using the finger test. Insert your finger into the soil next to the plant.
If the soil is dry to the first knuckle, it’s time to add more water. If not, hold off until more is absorbed. It’s also wise to water earlier in the day to give your foliage time to dry before the nighttime air settles in around your plants.
9. Fertilize Correctly
Tomatoes should be fertilized. However, you should utilize a balanced fertilizer. If you supply the plant with too much nitrogen, you’ll have bushy tomato plants without any tomatoes.
Yet, if your tomato plants are displaying yellow leaves, it’s a sign of a nitrogen deficiency. Consider fertilizing your tomato plants one time per month.
If you notice signs of distress, between feedings, it’s a good idea to apply more fertilizer as needed. Be aware of your tomato plants’ need for food to ensure they thrive.
10. Plant in the Right Dirt
Soil is a staple in gardening. If you don’t plant in the right soil, you’re setting your crops up for failure.
Therefore, you should try to plant your tomatoes in light, fluffy soil. It should be rich in nutrients and well-draining, too.
This will give the plant what it needs to grow well while also ensuring it doesn’t become waterlogged. Supplying the right soil can make all the difference in your harvest.
11. Trim the Foliage
Tomatoes have a tendency to become bushy. If you allow them to become unruly, they’ll suffer. The plants need to be pruned.
How much they’re pruned is up to you. I like to remove the foliage closest to the ground to avoid disease issues.
Some gardeners will cut the tomatoes back. These tomatoes usually reach harvest faster when being heavily pruned, so keep this in mind, as you may not receive as large of a harvest.
12. Choose the Right Variety
The final tip in raising tomatoes is to be sure you pick the right variety. Your method of gardening will impact which type of tomato you grow.
For instance, cherry tomatoes do better in containers. Larger tomato varieties do better in traditional in-ground garden beds or raised beds.
However you choose to grow tomatoes, be sure you pick the variety best for you. Also be mindful of determinate and indeterminate varieties as this will make a difference of how long your tomatoes produce.
All of these tips can play a role in having a successful growing season when raising tomatoes. Hopefully, they help you when trying your hand at raising this vegetable.
If you love tomatoes, whether growing a few or many, these pointers should help you have an enjoyable growing experience.