Fresh tomatoes are one of the most popular fruits grown in the spring and summer garden. And they can also bring the most disappointment if they fail to produce.
Who wants to anticipate fresh ripe tomatoes, only to end up with a weak (or sometimes bushy) plant that produces nothing? Get your tomato plants off on the right tracks with a few tomato planting tips!
How to Plant Tomatoes
To have those healthy tomato plants that will produce the largest and juiciest tomatoes, you need to know few gardening tips and tricks. These valuable tomato planting tips will work for any tomato variety and will help you have a bumper crop of fresh, homegrown tomatoes this summer.
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Tomatoes should be planted in once temps are consistently warm, and summer is on the way. Since tomatoes are naturally a vining plant, we use the method of bending the roots to the side when planting them.
This means once the hole for the plant is dug, I gently bend the roots to the side, but keep the plant upright. This is an old technique that my parents and grandparents have always used when planting tomatoes.
Wash hands before touching tomato plants
Tomato plants are highly susceptible to disease, so washing hands before touching tomato plants prevents the transfer of any disease-causing bacteria. Washing hands prior to gardening is vital if you’re a tobacco user.
The Tobacco Mosaic Virus (ToMV) is spread via humans or insects which have come into contact with a tobacco product, then touched any part of a tomato plant. If tomatoes develop black spots or if it’s misshapen, remove it from the plant and discard to prevent disease spread.
Feed tomato plants often
Tomato plants like consistent feeding and watering. (Don’t we all?) Use a water soluble fertilizer mixed at half the recommended rate and feed them twice as often as recommended. A water soluble fertilize allows a gardener to provide a consistent source of food and water in one step. (Think Miracle-Gro if that’s what you like, but I prefer Espoma Organic.)
You can also put a dressing of fresh compost around tomato plants, and this can be your compost from home or good compost from the store. (Want to learn to compost? Check out my post here!)
How to Prevent Blossom End Rot
Blossom end rot occurs when the soil moisture is not kept constant and/or when there is a lack calcium in the garden soil. (Having your soil tested before the growing season is always a great idea. See your local cooperative extension for free soil testing kits!)
Over-watering or under-watering can result in blossom end rot. Deep, weekly watering with one-half the recommended rate of water soluble fertilize and a layer of mulch will help to keep the garden soil moisture even.
A dose of Epsom Salt will add magnesium to the garden soil, which some claim helps to free up calcium in the soil for the plant. This may prevent blossom end rot and promote plant root growth. Once a month, feed plants a dose of Epsom salt by mixing one cup of Epsom salt into five gallons of water.
Stir to dissolve and water each plant with ½ gallon of the mixture. If the disease has already struck, remove the affected tomatoes and mix ½ cup of Epsom salt into a gallon of water and pour around plant roots.
How to stake and tie tomatoes
Tomato plants will be healthier and stronger if they are staked and tied in an upright position. Use a wooden or metal stake that is at least three feet long (we use 8ft stakes) and drive it securely into the soil. Use one-inch strips of soft, flexible cloth to loosely tie plants to the stakes. You want to give the plants plenty of room to grow.
Suckering and pruning tomatoes
Suckers are side shoots that develop on plants that will rob plants of energy and produce inferior tomatoes. The suckers grow in the ‘V’ formation between the main stalk and the branch. Pinch off all suckers that develop below the first blossoms.
Prune tomato plants by pinching off the top of the main stem to halt the top growth. See my tutorial here for How to Prune Tomato Plants.
Put these tomato planting tips to use and you’ll be on your way to a successful tomato harvest this year! We love our jellybean tomatoes here, and I’m trying out a new Lincoln tomato variety this year also. I’d love to know what type of tomatoes you’re going to plant in the garden. Have a great week and happy gardening!