Tomato Growing Tips and Tricks
Grow Better Tomatoes
Tomatoes from your backyard are better than factory farm tomatoes for a couple reasons:
- No time on a truck. Most factory farm tomatoes are picked green and turn red while they are driving the average 1,500 miles to get to you. Tomatoes from your garden can be picked when they are ripe and are only steps from the kitchen.
- Different varieties. Factory farm tomatoes are selected for their ability to travel on trucks well, not for taste. You can grow better tomatoes because you can select the tastiest varieties from the thousands of different kids of tomatoes.
Here are some tomato growing tips and tricks for growing healthy tomatoes in your home garden
- Amend the soil with compost. Compost can be made or purchased by the bag or by the truck load. If you are amending an existing garden spread 3 or 4 inches of compost on top of the soil before your plant and mix it in with a small tiller or shovel. To make your own compost read How to Build a Hot Compost Pile
- Purchase healthy tomato plants from a local nursery or start your own indoors 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost of the season. Tomatoes are very slow growing when they are young so they will need a long time indoors before they are ready to plant outside.
- Don’t plant until one week after the average last frost for your area. Tomatoes are are easily damaged by frost. Be patient and don't plant until it is warm.
- Gently tear the ends of the roots off after removing it from the container. This will help prevent root lock. A condition in which roots do not spread deep and wide because they continue to grow in a circle as if they were still in the pot.
- Plant the tomato on its side. Look at the stem of a tomato plant. All those tiny hair like things would be roots if they were under ground. To give your tomato a great foundation of roots, plant the plant in a trench lying down on its side. Gently tear off any low leaves that will be covered with dirt. Gently tilt the top of the plant upwards. In time the top will start growing upwards as it reaches for the sun. This technique of burying part of the stem along with the root ball will make your plants look instantly smaller but will help them in the long run by giving them a stronger foundation of roots. Be sure to water right after planting to make sure that the roots make contact with the soil.
- Be sure your tomato plant gets enough sunlight. Six hours a day is the minimum for growing healthy tomatoes and having a great harvest. Eight or more hours would be ideal.
- Water! watering is very important. Here is a tomato plant tip: Water deeply every other day when plants are established rather than a little every day. This will encourage the roots to grow deep as they look for water. Only water in the mornings or evenings to prevent heavy evaporation in the heat of the day. Always water at the base of the plant. Watering from above will get all the leaves wet which can encourage some diseases.
- Feed the soil. If you are growing organically top dress the plant with more compost. This means add a few handfuls to the soil right around the base of the plant. Worm compost is best if you can find it. If you are not growing organically there are many options of tomato fertilizer that you can apply in a similar way.
- Tomato plants need support. Many gardeners use tomato cages, stakes, or trellises, I prefer to use heavy duty tomato cages. However you do it, be sure to support your tomato plants early before they begin to flop over.
- Eat around beak cuts. You will inevitably share some of your tomato harvest with the birds in your backyard. If there are a couple beak cuts or slashes in your tomato simply cut them out and eat the rest.
- Never grow tomatoes in the same place two years in a row. Many diseases and pests of the tomato plant live in the soil and build up over time. Planting in the same spot year after year can spread those diseases. Another reason to rotate your crops is because different food crops need different amounts of nutrients to grow and produce. Rotating where they grow will help your soil nutrient levels be more balanced. Another plus to this approach is that it encourages you to grow a couple more crops and have a good diverse garden.
Enjoy your backyard tomato harvest! If you have another tomato growing tip or trick, please share below in the comments. Thanks.