Who doesn’t love to garden fresh tomatoes? Straight from the vine (washed of course) or used in your favorite recipes, few fruits of summer are more satisfying, delicious or versatile. Grow your own like a pro, with the following tips.
1. Shower them with plenty of sunshine. For optimum growth, tomato plants require no less than five hours of sunlight every day. It’s best to make sure your batch is basking in six to eight glorious hours of direct sunlight, if you can strategically plan for this when planting.
2. Give them the space they need. Be it in a pot or garden, make sure each tomato plant has approximately 10 gallons of soil to root in. Crowding them will yield less fruit or stunt growth all together.
3. Water with consistency. Although tomatoes need lots of water, a more important factor is the regularity with which you water them. Have a specified schedule planned out that you know will work for you, and stick to it.
4. Make sure your tomatoes get their vitamins. Being careful not to raise the pH of your soil, add things like bonemeal for calcium and epsom salt for other nutrients, including magnesium.
5. Don’t water them from overhead or in haste. Taking good care while watering your tomatoes will prevent splashing, which can coat the plants with disease harboring mud. Bacteria and fungi fester in watery soils and when left to dry on your plants, will invade and destroy them. Always water from the ground level.
6. Use high phosphorus fertilizer. This will provide your tomatoes with the best feeding environment, no matter if it’s with manufactured fertilizer or your own compost. Try giving them smaller, more frequent doses of feedings, rather that piling it all on at once.
7. Plan your staking system in advance. Tomatoes need a strong system of support, so make sure your garden will facilitate the heaviest fruit your plants will bear. Wire cages and strong string should suffice, but have your plan in place long before you plant or transplant.
8. Adopt a pruning strategy. Frequent pruning will yield fewer and larger tomatoes, while letting your plants run wild gives you a greater variety and higher number. Make up your mind early and be consistent with pruning, to harmonize the harvest and ensure your crop produces exactly what you are hoping for.
9. Watch out for frosts. Weather seems to be changing everywhere, and we don’t often know what to expect; be prepared for an unexpected frost that can kill your tomato plants at any time of the season. Warming up the soil the night before with extra water and covering them with a heavy tarp should ensure survival. When you fear extreme temperature drops, pick your tomatoes green and allow them to ripen indoors.
10. Frequent inspections. Since gardening is so enjoyable anyway, you should devote time to just walking around your tomato plants and thoroughly inspecting them for signs of poor health, pests or diseases. Early intervention is the best way to eliminate problems and make sure your plants produce the best fruit.
Every garden offers its own rewards, but a successful tomato garden will yield an entire summer of pride, joy and healthy delicious eating. Try these tips out in your own backyard and enjoy!