As one of the most ubiquitous and best-loved vegetables, it’s hard to beat the taste and scent of sun-ripened tomatoes (the ones in the grocery store are usually artificially ripened) and the best way to satisfy the craving is to plant them at home! Since it’s just about that time of the year, here are a couple of tips and tricks for terrific tomatoes!
- Start with healthy plants – If growing from seed or purchasing plants from your local garden center, you want to transplant the short and stocky plants. The greater the girth of the main stem, the better! This means they’ve established a better root system and will grow much stronger after being transplanted outside.
- Sun, sun and more sun – Plant your tomatoes in the area of your garden that gets the most sun! They like about 8-10 hours a day of full sun.
- The soil – It should be well-draining and rich in organic matter. Before planting add a little compost to the soil and remember to feed the plants with a tomato fertilizer a couple of times through out the growing season.
- Wait until the perfect time to plant – Don’t get overzealous and try and stick them in the ground too early! Wait not only until after the danger of frost has passed, but until the soil temperature is 60 degrees.
- Spacing – Tomatoes like about 1.5 – 3 feet between them to ensure good air flow (prevents disease) and ample space for roots to stretch out.
- Planting the seedlings – A little trick from my dad – Bury the plant up to its lowest set of leaves when transplanting. Roots will grow along the stem and result in a stronger root system, which equals more tomatoes for you!
- Support plants – I like to use the tall cages. This helps keep the plant from sagging and the fruit from lying on the ground, which can lead to rotting. It also makes it easier to care for the plant.
- Pruning – If plants are staked, regularly pinch off the small suckers that sprout between the leafy branches and main stems. This will prevent your plant from getting too leggy and will keep the plants energy focused on producing more fruit.