Ten Tips for Planning and Planting Tomatoes

One of the most popular homegrown vegetables is the good ol’ tomato, or love apple, if you’re the romantic type. Plant them well and the chances of happy plants with a high yield will greatly increase. The tips below can be applied to planting tomatoes in the ground, in a raised bed or into a large container.

1. Selecting the Variety

With hundreds of different shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, it’s easy to get carried away in deciding which kind of tomatoes to grow. Take a look at your growing area. How much space do you have? How many hours of sunlight does it get? Base your decisions off those answers. As heatlovers, all tomato plants need a substantial amount of sunlight but some more than others. Big beefy tomatoes won’t produce well without maximum space and sunlight. Whereas small and medium sized tomatoes can thrive with slightly less. Think about it this way, the larger the tomato, the greater its needs. Beefsteak varieties need lots of garden space, or a large container, at least 10 gallons or more. Whereas you’ll have more success growing a cherry or pear variety if you have a small balcony with less available space.

2. Rotate Your Tomato Plants

Avoid planting your tomatoes in the same place as the previous year. Crop rotation reduces the amount of pests and disease in your garden and helps retain soil fertility. If you’re planting in the same container as last season, disinfect it as best as you can and use new soil or add as much new soil and compost as possible.

3. Find the Sun

Tomatoes are heat lovers that need six to ten hours of sunlight per day. Give them the spot that gets the most sun in your garden or outdoor space and they’ll be singing your praises.

4. The Calendar Sweetspot

Don’t plant too early but don’t plant too late. Sounds a bit puzzling? Just don’t jump on the first nice day. Tomato plants, especially in their seedling phase are tender, wait until the frost date has passed and then wait some more before you dig them into the soil. On the other hand, if you forget and wait too long to plant, you won’t be giving the plants ample growing time to produce robust fruits.

5. Bury the Tomato Plant Deep

And we mean deep! Carefully pinch off one-third to half of the stems from the bottom up, leaving a handful at the top. Those top branches and stem will stay above ground and the rest will be buried under the soil. If you’re new to planting tomatoes, this might sound strange but trust! Much of that stem has the potential to grow roots. More roots equal a stronger and healthier plant, which means more tomatoes for you to enjoy.

6. Proper Spacing = Happy Plant

If the tomato was personified, it would probably be depicted as waiting in the doctor’s office a lot. Tomatoes are susceptible to a handful of diseases. Much of their issues can be solved with good air circulation. Give them space and don’t cram them together!

7. Amend, Amend, Amend!

Tomatoes are heavy feeders that need a big dose of “food” during planting time. Adding handfuls of compost, a slow-release fertilizer and worm castings in the planting hole will help set your tomato up for success. Tomatoes are big eaters!

8. Stake - Support Your Tomato and It Will Feed your Belly

Keep the tomatoes from sprawling across your garden and becoming more susceptible to disease by training them to grow up. Staking doesn’t have to happen the moment you plant the tomatoes but stake them about a week later.

9. Good Watering Practice

Water deeeeeply but infrequently. This will make your plants grow stronger because the roots drive deep into the ground in search of water. Get into the habit of watering at the base of the plant. Watering overhead will lead to wet tomato leaves and your plant will be more susceptible to disease.

10. Mulch

Mulch keeps moisture in the soil, suppresses weeds and looks polished (like you really have life put together!) An inch or two of straw or cedar bark is enough but leave a small area of soil bare around the stem for air circulation.

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