Everyone has heard of tomatoes, right? Many vegetable gardeners choose to grow tomatoes to start his/her highly productive backyard. While the process of growing tomatoes is not difficult for beginners, there are a couple of tips and tricks you will need to grow the perfect tomato.
Tip 1: Choose the Right Tomato Variety
Varieties of tomatoes can be classified as determinate, indeterminate, and disease resistant.
A determinate tomato, also known as a shrub or compact plant, will stop growing after producing a certain number of fruits and grow fully up to 24 to 30 inches in height. If you have limited space in your garden or if you want to have a large amount of fruit (for canning or tomato sauce), shrubby plants are a good choice.
The indeterminate tomato has larger fruit than the determinate ones. It can grow to over 6 feet, which means you'll need stakes, cages or lattice frames to support its heavy vines. It will continue to bloom and fruit throughout the season, but be careful for frost. Once frost arrives, the plant will die.
Disease resistance means that the tomato is resistant to a certain disease and is usually distinguished by capital letters after the tomato name.
V = yellow wilt
F/ FF = wilt species 1 and 2
A = streptocarpus leaf spot
N= nematode resistance
If you live in a more humid area, choose varieties that are resistant to wilt, such as Aligote F1, Amarillo F1, Edox F1, Sweet Million F1, Bellastar. (For more information, see Cornell's disease-resistant tomato varieties page.)
Tip 2: Provide Plenty of Sunlight
Tomatoes love sunlight and need at least 6 to 8 hours of sun exposure per day. Of course, if temperatures in your area exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit, shade with a shade cloth or light-colored thin cloth is required.
Tomatoes in the early stages of sowing need strong direct light, and in areas lacking sufficient light, plant lights can be used to promote seedling growth. Have these lights shine for about 14 to 18 hours for best results.
Tip 3: Adjust Soil Conditions
The best soil pH for tomatoes is between 6.2 and 6.5.
Also, tomatoes like heat, so you can use a black or red mulch to heat the soil a few weeks before planting. Soil temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit are best.
Of course, it is also necessary to cover the soil throughout the growing season. You can mulch the soil with 2 to 4 inches of mulch such as straw, grass clippings, and shredded trees. A good mulch not only regulates soil temperature, it is beneficial for weed control, moisture retention and even disease prevention.
Tip 4: Water Deeply
Tomatoes need a lot of water during the growing season to promote nutrient absorption in the roots. Insufficient watering may lead to cracking or blossom rot, a plant physiological disease caused by calcium deficiency. Generally, the soil contains enough calcium, but improper watering can affect the absorption of calcium by the plant roots, so it comes down to a watering problem.
Here's a basic rule of watering: Make sure tomatoes get at least 1 to 2 inches of deep watering each week. You can do more or less depending on the weather and different growing cycles. You can install a drip irrigation hose or permeable hose on a programmable timer to keep the soil deeply moist. RainPoint has a variety of smart water timers to ease your burden. It’s easy to set up and you can create a watering schedule that fits your exact needs.
Tip 5: Provide Enough Growing Space
A crowded growing environment will hinder the air circulation between plants and make them vulnerable to various diseases. So please leave enough space.
Spacing between determinate tomatoes should be at least 2 feet and between indeterminate tomatoes at least 2.5 to 3 feet.
Tip 6: Provide Nutrients
Tomatoes need to absorb a lot of nutrients throughout their growth cycle, mainly nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Phosphorus will promote root growth and flowering and fruiting, and nitrogen will catalyze the growth of the plant's green leaves. It is worth noting that if your tomato plants do not have yellow leaves, try to avoid using nitrogen fertilizer, it will make your plants grow a lot of leaves but very little fruit.
Tip 7: Plant Deep
Tomatoes can form an extensive root system along the stem. If you want stronger tomato plants, bury 2/3 of the stem at planting time. This helps the plant get better access to water and nutrients underneath the soil.
Tip 8: Pruning
The more the plant grows, the less sunlight and air the lower leaves will get. This can lead to fungal problems which will result in yellowing of the leaves. You can cut back the bottom leaves to prevent the spread of the fungus when the western tomato plant grows to 2 to 3 feet tall. Also, suckers will grow between the two branches, and not only will they not bear fruit, they will absorb nutrients from the plant. Trimming off the excess suckers will allow the fruit to receive more nutrients, which means you'll get sweeter tomatoes.
I hope this article can be a useful reference for you and help you grow the best tomatoes. If you have more growing tips, you're welcome to share them in the comments section below!