1. Start With the Right Tomato Plant
Tomatoes come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, tastes, temperaments, etc. Choosing the right variety for you is essential to your tomato growing success! We like to start our own tomatoes from seed, to have a larger variety of types to choose from.
2. Preheat the Soil in Your Garden
Tomatoes love heat! Covering your garden beds with a black or clear plastic for a couple of weeks will really warm up the ground, and lead to earlier tomatoes. This step is really optional…especially if you live in a warm climate like us. If your area is not so warm, this really can make a difference! (Also great for weed control.)
3. Bury Your Plant
The key to strong tomato plants is to break off the leaves, and bury the bottom 2/3 of the plant. (Note: This method will only work for tomatoes and tomatillos)
4. Provide Lots of Light
Tomatoes thrive in full sun. Too hot, too quickly can be an issue when you plant goes to set fruit. If you live in a place that has really hot early summer. Consider diffusing the light a bit.
5. Let Your Plants Breathe!
Be sure to provide plenty of air circulation to your tomatoes by not planting them too tightly. This will also help by reducing the risk of pests and fungal diseases.
6. Remove the Bottom Leaves
Once your tomato plants reach about 3 feet tall, remove the leaves from the bottom 1 foot of stem. These are the oldest leaves and they are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems. As the plants fill out, the bottom leaves get the least amount of sun and air flow. Being close to the ground, soil born pathogens can easily splash up onto them. So get them out of there!
7. Add Support Directly After Planting
Tomatoes need support or they will become rangy and damaged due to breakage. Whether you use an A-frame, tomato cage, or stake. Putting your trellising system in place well before your plant starts to develop a large root system will ensure those roots do not get damaged.
8. Companion Plant
Companion planting works wonderfully to protect tomatoes from pests. Sow basil underneath, garlic, nasturtiums or marigolds.
9. Water Regularly
Water deeply and regularly while the fruits are developing. Irregular watering. Missing a week and trying to make up for it, leads to blossom end rot and cracking. The rule of thumb is to ensure your plants get at least 1 in. of water per week, but during hot, dry spells, they may need more.
Once the fruit begins to ripen, you can ease up on watering. Lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars, for better flavor. Use your judgment. Don’t withhold water so much that the plants continually wilt.
10. Rotate your Tomato Crop
The best way to keep a healthy vegetable patch is to alternate your tomato bed between a few spots in the garden to diminish the risk of soil-borne diseases such as bacterial spot and early blight.
Homegrown tomatoes are one of summer’s BEST foods, even if you only have the space for ONE patio tomato…it’s worth investing the time to grow them. 😉