Tomatoes… They seem like they can be one of the easiest things to grow, and one of the hardest– all at the same time.
I’ve had a couple years where I had a bumper crop (I think it may have been beginner’s luck…), and other years where the whole experience was a big. fat. fail.
I wasn’t able to put as many plants in as I would have liked to this year (I ran out of room! A second garden spot is on the docket for next year), but I figured that I would try to nurture the ones I have as much as possible.
I’ve been digging around a bit to increase my odds of success, and here are some of the best tips I’ve found.
If you are one of the experienced gardeners in the crowd, then you probably already implement many of these tips. But if you are a newbie, hopefully these will increase your odds of success!
10 Tips for Successfully Growing Tomatoes
1. Plant deep. If you can, bury the stem of the tomato well into the ground when you transplant. The steam and leaves that are buried will end up sprouting roots, and you’ll end up with a stronger plant.
2. Amend the hole with some crushed eggshells for added calcium. Blossom End Rot is a common problem which can be caused by a lack of calcium. A handful of eggshells at the bottom of your planting hole just might be the remedy for this trouble. And throw a bit of compost in the hole while you are at it. (Need more ideas on how to use up your extra eggshells? I’ve got ya covered!)
3. Water from the ground up. It’s best to avoid getting the leaves of the tomato plant wet if you can… (Although I’ve definitely used the sprinkler on my ‘maters in years past…) So if you can, invest in some soaker hoses to water the plants deeply.
4. Give ‘em plenty of sun. There are many vegetables that thrive in the shadier spots of your garden (lettuce, spinach, peas), but tomatoes aren’t one of them. Be sure to plant them in a spot that has full-sun throughout the day.
5. Mulch! I am bound and determined to develop a better relationship with mulch this year… Not only can it cut down on weeding, but it can also help the soil to retain water longer. I haven’t used it much in the past, but last year’s weed disaster has me convinced that it is the way to go. Once my seedlings are a bit more established and the soil as warmed up a tad more, I’ll be place a layer of straw around my plants.
6. Give some support. Tomatoes like to have something to lean on. Of course, you can purchase the wire tomato cages from the store, or go the DIY route and craft your own. Here are a few DIY tomato cage ideas:
- A sturdy cage made from concrete wire
- Using livestock panels as a trellis
- A cage made from PVC pipe
- The Stake-a-Cage method
7. Fight fungus. Underwood Gardens has a recipe for all-natural fungicide that reportedly works better than even commercial products. Simply combine 9 cups of water with 1 cup of milk and spray this mixture liberally on the plant.
8. Watch those yard birds! I learned the hard way last year that my free-range chickens L-O-V-E tomatoes… There is nothing more disappointing than to reach for a big, juicy tomato, only to discover that it’s backside has been gored by a chicken beak… When my tomatoes were ripening last year, I ended up locking my hens up for a couple weeks. They weren’t too thrilled with me, but I needed that tomato sauce!
9. Don’t drown them. This is a hard one to get through my head, as usually everything here in dry ol’ Wyoming can ALWAYS benefit from a whole lot of water. But, tomatoes aren’t quite like that. Definitely try to keep the soil evenly moist, but don’t drown them in excess water, either. You’ll have to play with this depending on your unique climate.
10. Prune and pinch. Pruning the suckers from your plant will help it to put more energy into producing actual fruit. This post from the Urban Organic Gardener will give you all the info you need to pinch the suckers off of your plants and maximize your harvest.
And of course, you can probably follow none of these tips and still have a good chance of a bountiful harvest. But, since I think my beginner’s luck has officially run out, I’m ready to get down to business and implement some of these ideas.
What are your best tomato growing tips? Leave a comment, and I’ll add them to the list!
This post was shared at Frugally Sustainable