If you are thinking about growing America’s favorite crop - tomatoes - there are some things you need to keep in mind. Those firm, juicy, red tomatoes are only possible if you give the tomato plants the care and attention they ask for. Follow these tomato growing tips to make sure your tomato crop thrives this year.
When To Start A Tomato Crop
Tomatoes are a warm-weather crop and can be direct-sown in the garden when the soil temperature is at least 55°F. Alternatively, you can start it indoors, 6 to 8 weeks before the date of the last spring frost. Seedlings started indoors can be transplanted into the garden after hardening off once the dangers of a frost have passed.
Start with light, fertile soil. Make sure you’ve worked lots of compost into the soil before planting the seeds or seedlings. When transplanting seedlings into the garden, add a handful of organic tomato fertilizer at the bottom of the planting hole before planting the seedlings. This will give the young plants an extra boost.
Lots Of Light
Tomato plants need plenty of light to thrive. Make sure you plant them at a sunny spot in the garden where they can receive several hours of direct sunlight each day. If you're growing them indoors during the seedling stage, make sure they're placed next to a sunny window to avoid weak and leggy seedlings. If the light isn't enough indoors, supplement it with artificial lighting for 14 to 18 hours each day.
Install stakes or tomato cages when planting tomato seeds or seedlings in the garden, so the developing roots aren't disturbed during the growing season. Tomato vines will need a stake to climb on as they grow bigger; otherwise, they'll droop. Bush-type tomato plant varieties can be supported using tomato cages.
Irregular watering can lead to problems like blossom end rot, cracking, and splitting. Tomato plants need consistent moisture to produce plump, flawless fruit. Make sure to offer the plants an inch of water per week and even more during hot, dry spells. Mulching around the plants can help conserve soil moisture.
Suckers are the small stems that emerge from the intersection of branches on tomato plants. Pinch these out as they appear since they will develop into new branches as they grow larger, pulling away energy from the plant that would otherwise have been used in fruit development.
I hope these tips help you plant an amazing tomato garden this summer!