Tomato Growing Tips
Tomatoes are America's most popular homegrown veggie. They are actually a fruit because they are formed from flowers and contain seeds. Tomatoes are legally classed as vegetables for tax purposes only (sad, but true). Regardless of what they are called, tomatoes are delicious, nutritious, and easy to grow with a few simple guidelines.
Water consistently. Try to keep a steady amount of soil moisture around your tomato plants. Uneven watering, even from rainstorms, can cause cracking and splitting. Try not to let the soil go from bone dry to super wet, especially while the fruit is forming. The roots seem to soak up more water than the fruits can handle, resulting in cracking. Thin-skinned varieties suffer the most from this.
Optimum water for tomatoes is about an inch a week, but that depends on your climate and rainfall. Hotter, drier areas may need to water more. Established tomatoes are drought tolerant and require regular watering to thrive but not survive. Many gardeners say that a drought stressed tomato plant produces more flavorful fruit at the expense of quantity. Whether you try dry or moist methods, the key is to be consistent.
Stake early and often. Don't wait until your tomatoes are lumbering monsters to try to support them. Before they grow out of control stake and/or cage them. Indeterminate varieties will keep growing as long as the weather is good. Well-grown tomatoes can reach 8' tall and 8' wide. You have lots of options for supports, including bamboo stakes, wire cages, and trellises. Until a few years ago my grandfather used 2"x4"s and old panty hose. Recently, I have been using modular systems with lots of success. Whichever you choose, from time to time add new supports for the taller branches to keep the plant upright and accessible.
Fertilize regularly. Tomatoes are hungry plants. They require a lot of nutrients to produce a lot of fruit. When using fertilizers, follow directions carefully. Do not overfertilize. Overfertilization damages the plant, the soil, and the environment. In addition to fertilizer, you can add organic topdressings and compost to feed the roots and build the soil.
Thin out excess leaves and branches. Tomatoes can have lots of rank growth. Many gardeners pinch out some the small shoots sprouting from the top of the branches. Termed 'suckers' these shoots will develop into branches themselves. To focus the plants energy on developing and ripening fruit the excess 'suckers' are removed. Not all gardeners pinch their suckers, but for those growing in a small space it may be necessary. Everyone should remove old yellowing or shriveled leaves. It is easier to see and harvest tomatoes when the old leaves are cleared. This is also a good practice to limit disease.
Greenland Gardeners grow great veggies the easy way.
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