Nothing beats a fresh, vine-ripened tomato from the garden. Those juicy, sweet tomatoes are the perfect complement to any meal. If you are a new gardener, just entering the world of homegrown tomatoes, we have some great tips to help you grow the best tomatoes.
1. Choose the Sunniest Spot
Tomatoes love sunshine and warmth. They thrive with at least 7 hours of sunlight a day. This means that if you want the best tomatoes, you need to plant them in the sunniest spot in your garden. If you want to go a step further, you can plant them in a line going north and south so that they get morning AND afternoon sun.
2. Prepare the Soil
Tomatoes are heavy feeders and need loose, nutrient-rich soil for optimal results. Before planting your tomatoes, turn and fluff up the soil. Then mix in an organic compost or fertilizer. This will give a nice foundation of layered nutrients for the tomato plants to use. For the best tomato fertilizer, we recommend Dr. JimZ Tomato Secret.
3. Don’t Rush Into Planting
Tomatoes love warmth, so planting while it is still too cold will stunt their growth or kill the plants entirely. Do not plant your tomatoes before the last frost, and try to ensure that soil temperatures are consistently over 60 degrees fahrenheit. If there is a cold snap, make sure to protect them with wax hot caps or water walls to keep them warm.
4. Give Room to Grow
Tomatoes will grow and expand a lot over the course of the growing season. Make sure that you space them at least 30-48 inches apart, depending on the variety. The rows should also be spaced at least 48 inches apart. This will give them room to spread out, but it will also give them access to sunlight and increased airflow.
5. Plant Sideways
Tomatoes will root all along the stem, so planting a large portion of the stem underground will cause new roots to emerge, creating stronger plants. Many people recommend planting tomatoes deep so that only the top few leaves are out of the ground. We recommend planting them sideways in a trench. Dig a trench a couple of feet long, and lay the tomato plant in sideways. Carefully prop up a portion of the end so that it is out of the ground, being careful not to damage the plant. As it grows, the plant will straighten toward the light. This planting technique allows the roots to grow all along the stem and puts the plant closer to the surface where it is warmer.
6. Don’t Forget the Support
There are two main types of tomatoes. Determinate varieties are compact plants that fruit all at once, and indeterminate varieties produce all season. Caging is helpful for both, but essential for indeterminate varieties so that they will not break or droop as they fruit. You can buy tomato cages, or you can make your own. If you are wanting to grow huge tomatoes, you will need a much larger support structure.
7. Water Deeply
Tomatoes need consistent, deep watering to produce well. Soaker hoses are best for this because they will get the moisture deep down to the roots. Mulching around the base of the plants can also help to hold the moisture in. Try to give your tomatoes 1-2 inches of water every week, depending on your variety and your soil. Tomatoes in containers will need more water than tomatoes in the garden.
Now that you know some of the best tomato growing tips, go out and try your hand at producing the perfect tomatoes. You won’t be sorry when you take that first bite! Check out drjimz.com for all of your tomato growing needs.