It’s tomato growing season across the country. Whether you’re just starting or are getting ready for the first harvest, we’ve all got tomatoes on our minds. Growing tomatoes properly will help ensure that you get a tasty, productive harvest. It all starts with planting in full sun on fertile, well-drained soil. I like using raised beds to help with water drainage and growth, but if you’re in the Southwest use waffle beds instead. These beds are slightly depressed to help catch the scant rainfall. Here are more tomato tips to try.
Planting– If you’re just planting now, remember tomatoes can root all along their stems. You can plant leggy plants on their side in a shallow trench, buried in the soil, with just the top few leaves popping out of the ground. The stems will root and your plant will thrive. Add a handful of organic fertilizer at planting time and again when flowering.
One Stake Supports– Most tall tomato varieties such as ‘Brandywine’, ‘Big Boy’, ‘Sungold’ and ‘Roma’ need support to keep the fruit off the ground. The traditional support is one stake driven next to the plant right after planting. Attach the main stem to the stake with VELCRO® Brand Plant Ties. The plant ties are flexible enough to allow some movement but sturdy enough to support the weight of the plant. Add new ties to the main stem as the plant grows, removing suckers to prevent the plant from getting too bushy.
Cages– Some gardeners love tomato cages, especially for growing tall, indeterminate tomato varieties. Select round or square metal cages or build your own using steel wire. Place them in the ground at planting. For really big plants you may need to add stakes to support the cages attached with VELCRO® Brand Plant Ties or VELCRO® Brand One-Wrap® Ties.
The Weave– Commercial growers use a basket weave system for growing lots of plants. Tie twine to a stake and weave it, in figure 8, around the plants down the row and then tie it to another stake placed 6 feet away. Go back through the row weaving in the opposite direction to wrap and secure the plants. Create new weaves as the plants grow.
Care- To keep indeterminate plants in bounds, remove suckers that form in late summer. These probably won’t have enough time to grow, set and mature fruits. For shorter dwarf and determinate varieties, suckers aren’t usually an issue. Mulch and keep plants well watered all summer to prevent blossom end rot and leaf blight. Watch for tomato hornworms, picking them off. Start harvesting as soon as the fruits turn their mature color. Tomatoes will continue to ripen indoors as well.