Growing tomatoes is an easy way to add color and vitamins to your diet. Although many people think growing tomatoes is difficult, it’s actually very easy to do once you know what’s needed to get perfect tomatoes.
Growing Tomatoes in a Few Easy Steps
There are a few things you must do when growing tomatoes if you want them to flourish. These aren’t plants that you plop into the ground straight out of the pot. You’ve got to baby them somewhat and make sure they have plenty of food.
Preparing Your Bed
Whether you’re growing tomatoes in raised beds or in a traditional garden plot, you’ve got to make sure the beds are prepared. Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so popping them into any old dirt isn’t going to cut it. If you have a composter or a compost bin, you’ll want to dip into that to amend your garden soil. If you don’t have one, there’s an article coming about it.
If you don’t have access to your own compost, good amendments to add to the soil are well seasoned manure, peat moss, leaves, and grass clippings. You can get leaves from raking and grass clipping from your yard if you have a bag. The manure may be more difficult to find depending on your area, and you’ll have to buy the peat moss.
However you get them, this combination provides a nice balance of nutrients, and the peat moss helps with moisture retention without keeping the roots of the tomato plants soggy. Remember this when growing tomatoes: they don’t like soggy roots.
When adding in these amendments, you’ll want to till them in to a depth of about one foot. This ensures that the full length of your tomato plant’s root system has access to all the nutrients you’ve added. In addition to that, a well tilled bed increases drainage and allows easier root expansion.
Picking the Right Tomatoes
If you’re growing tomatoes for the first time, I recommend varieties such as Beefsteak, Big Boy, and Better Boy. These varieties are extremely hardy and can stand up to a less experienced touch. They also taste great, and they’re an all purpose tomato perfect for salads, sandwiches, or with just a touch of salt on them for snacking.
Planting Your Tomatoes
When you’re growing tomatoes, planting can make or break your harvest. Never ever plant your tomatoes to the pot depth. It’s far too shallow. If you look at a tomato plant, you’ll seed nubs all over the stem. When covered with dirt, these nubs will put out roots.
When you plant your tomatoes dig a hole that is about 6 – 7 inches in diameter and 80% of the height of your tomato plant. Some people dig shallow trenches for planing the tomatoes on their sides. I don’t recommend that. Planting them deeply ensures that they use every speck of moisture they get. This allows for maximum root production, and because these guys are heavy feeders, you’ll need it.
After planting, make sure you water your tomatoes in very well. Get that water all the way down to the bottom of the plant where the original roots are. A good watering from the get go provides an extra leg up on the growing process.
Spacing Your Tomatoes
Tomatoes need space to grow properly. When growing tomatoes, you never want to crowd them. In fact, you want to err on the side of too much space. When I plant my tomatoes, I space the holes about 2 1/2 feet apart. Tomatoes need this space for air flow and to help reduce the instance of diseases. When tomato plants are too close together they can get leaf rot and some other nasty things.
Supporting Your Tomatoes
You’re going to want every single plant to have a tomato cage. Tomato plants can get huge. Especially when you raise them properly, and a tomato cage helps immensely. It keeps the tomatoes themselves off of the ground, and it keeps the plants from falling over and possibly breaking.
Tomato plants are heavy feeders and they require a lot of water. Think about a tomato. When you cut into it, it’s nice and juicy. All that juice has to come from somewhere. When growing tomatoes, be prepared to use extra water or make a rain barrel.
I’ve found that a nice way to water my tomatoes is to put a water pump attached to a soaker hose into my rain barrel. Then I turn on the pump and let the soaker hose do it’s thing. Remember, because you planted your tomatoes so deeply, you’ll want to water those tomatoes to a depth of at least 3 inches. That will allow for immediate absorption of water as well as long term absorption as the moisture makes its way down.
I’ve said it a couple of times already, because it’s so important to remember. Tomatoes are heavy feeders. The plants grow fast and they are a high yield plant. They need lots and lots of nutrients. Because tomatoes are a touch sensitive, I recommend getting a high quality tomato food and following the instructions on the packaging. Make sure it’s tomato food and not general plant fertilizer, the ratios are different.
Making Sure Your Yield is High
While you’re growing tomatoes, you’ll have to do some maintenance on them. Tomato plants put out “sucker shoots”, which you don’t want. You’ll see these shoots sprouting out from where the branches meet the stalk of the plant. You want to pinch all of these off. This allows maximum energy to be sent to the plant and the fruit themselves.
Growing Tomatoes is Fun, So Get in on That Action
I love growing tomatoes. I used to grow enough tomatoes to supply the neighborhood. It’s so much fun to watch that little plant grow into a ginormous beast just full of delicious red globes. If you follow these tips on growing tomatoes, you too will be neck deep in tomatoes in no time.