Growing Great Tomatoes — Here’s how I get my tomato plants growing and producing their best.
Tomatoes are high-maintenance vegetables. Not only do they require more attention than your average vegetable plan, but it also takes tomatoes longer to begin producing luscious, juicy vegetables than your average plant. Tomatoes must be planted a few weeks earlier than the rest of your garden, and the level of attention required by each individual plant can eat up a lot of time.
On the other hand, a properly cared for tomato plant yields plenty of big, red tomatoes. Tomato plants, with the exception of squash plants, tend to produce more than any other vegetable plant. The plentiful harvest makes growing tomatoes a worthwhile endeavor.
A Helpful Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes
So what special needs does a tomato plant require? How does one properly care for this finicky vegetable? This is the process I use to get my tomato plants looking and producing their best.
1. Fertilize and Pesticide Your Garden
You must do this before you plant. Pesticides will kill vegetables, so the pesticide must go on at least a week or two before you plant. The pesticide is important. In my area, tomato plants catch soil viruses very easily, so in order to allow your tomatoes to survive through the summer, a good pesticide might be used. Besides, pesticides help keep the bugs out of your vegetables and garden all year long.
2. Plant Early
As mentioned earlier, tomatoes take longer to produce than almost any other garden vegetable, so tomatoes often are planted when it still freezes at night. Since the temperatures are still too cold for most plants to survive, your tomato sprouts must be encompassed in walls of water. Walls of water are available in the gardening section of most department stores.
3. Start Tomatoes From Sprouts
When you plant your garden with young tomato plants instead of seeds, you’ll be able to tell if the tomato plant is going to survive sooner. It also gives your tomato plant a couple of extra weeks than if you planted the vegetable as a seed.
4. When the Weather Begins to Warm Up, Remove the Wall of Water
This prevents the sun from cooking the plant to death, assuming you had to use a wall of water.
5. Use Soaker Hoses to Water the Plants
Soaker hoses are my personal preference when it comes to watering. The reasons are two-fold. One, I live in a desert, and soaker hoses conserve water. Two, I have found that all my plants grow better when soaker hoses are used instead of conventional sprinklers. The choice is up to you, but I recommend soaker hoses.
6. As the Plants Begin to Grow Large, Put them in Vegetable Cages
Tomato plants will droop over and die in the dirt if a cage is not in place to keep the plant upright. The tomatoes simply weigh too much for the plant to hold their weight without additional support. Vegetable garden cages can be found in the garden section of a local department store.
7. Keep the Area Around the Tomato Plant Weed-free
Weeds steal water meant for your garden, not to mention weeds look plain outright ugly. Keep your plants weed-free, and your tomatoes, all your plants, in fact, will produce more vegetables and appear healthier.
8. Keep the Tomato Plants Pruned
Tomatoes require frequent trimming and pruning. When the tomato plant stems begin to protrude from the cage, it’s time to pull out the shearers. A good sign of a needed trimming would be when the stems of the plant begin to droop or sag when no tomatoes are weighing them down.
Tomatoes are high maintenance, but very worth the effort. Come summer and early fall, your taste buds will appreciate the efforts when big, red, juicy tomatoes encompassed in the middle of a delicious BLT sandwich. Good luck with your gardening!
Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. As an award winning writer for Demand Studios, Richford has been featured on a variety of home and garden sites, maintains a paranormal blog and contributes work to the educational field with lessons and resources designed for teachers. She is available for independent writing projects.