Natural State Gardening is a weekly blog about organic gardening techniques.
Here are some tips for growing healthy, productive tomato plants:
- Plant Deeply: When planting tomato plants, make a deep hole, put a scoop of compost in the hole, cut all but the top few leaf branches off of the plant, and plant the plant much deeper than it was in the pot. This way, the root fibers on the stem will grow into the soil and create a more extensive root system.
- Grow Up: Tomato plants will be healthier and take up less room if grown up a trellis system rather than allowing them to sprawl on the ground (tomatoes are vines). Growing on the ground increases the likelihood that the plant will contract soil-borne illness from contact with the dirt.
- Pick Indeterminate Varieties: Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes produce a steady supply of tomatoes as the plant continues to grow throughout the season. Determinate varieties, on the other hand, are comparatively small plants that produce their fruit all at once and then stop.
- Steady Moisture: Once the soil has warmed up, mulch the tomatoes to keep the soil consistently moist. Even soil moisture will help prevent fruit cracking.
- Water Weekly: Once decent sized plants are in the ground, water deeply only about once or twice a week (if hot and dry) to keep the soil consistently moist to a deep level. Be careful not to get the leaves wet – especially not overnight – as this promotes disease.
- Lots of Sun: Tomatoes prefer at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.
- Crop Rotation: Avoid planting tomatoes in a spot where any member of the Solanaceous plant family (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants) has grown within the last 2 or 3 years.
- Prune: If growing tomatoes up a single support, such as a bamboo pole, remove all suckers and train the plant to a single stem. If growing in cages, remove the bottom two suckers only and leave any additional suckers and stems. Also, remove any diseased, pest-damaged or off-colored leaves to prevent the spread of problems. Finally, prune any leaves that are in contact with the dirt.
- Proper Spacing: Space trellised or caged tomato plants at least 16” apart.
- Compost Tea: If the tomato plant needs a boost, feed it compost tea.
Tomato fun facts:
- Indeterminate tomato vines can grow more than 10 feet long.
- Sun drying is a great way to preserve tomatoes!
- Tomato leaves come in two varieties: Regular and Potato leaf
- There are hundreds of varieties. Explore: http://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/tomatoes/
- According to Guinness World Records, the record for heaviest tomato grown is 7 lbs 12 oz.
- Tomatoes taste best when stored at temperatures above 50 degrees F, so don’t refrigerate them!
- Suckers can be planted in potting soil or in the ground to start a new tomato plant quickly.
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