7 Steps to Growing Bigger, Healthier Tomatoes
A staple of summer harvests, every gardener wants bigger and healthier tomatoes. Here are 7 steps you can take to maximize your tomato plant's yields.
Step 1 - Give the tomatoes a head start
Start your tomatoes in pots at least 3-4 weeks before the last frost date. When the risk of frost has passed, they should be about 1 foot (12 inches) or a little more when it's time to transplant.
If starting plants indoors, be sure to provide a strong light source with the full UV spectrum to prevent the tomatoes from becoming leggy.
Use an appropriately sized pot so the plants don't become root bound. An optimal pot to start tomatoes in would be around 1 foot deep, but it can be a little shallower than this.
Step 2 - Incorporate fertilizer into the top soil
When the chance of frost is gone, it's time to plant. Start by gently mixing a fertilizer (compost, worm castings, etc.) into the top couple inches of the soil of where you intend to transplant the tomato.
Step 3 - Dig a hole
Dig a hole about 2 feet deep. Place the top couple inches of dirt you mixed fertilizer into as a pile separate from the rest of the dirt. At this time place any items that need to be secured by soil, e.g., stakes or deep watering pipes. If these are placed later they will damage the roots of the tomato.
Space holes out so tomato plants will have 3 feet between each other.
Step 4 - More fertilizer
Fill the hole with a wide variety of organic material. Stuff like fish bones or heads, crushed egg shells, crushed bone, bone meal, compost of varying size and decomposition stages, worm castings, etc. Cover this organic matter with a thin layer of soil.
All this material will provide long lasting nutrition to the tomato plant as it slowly breaks down.
Step 5 - Trim the tomato
Prune the lower leaves from the tomato plant, leaving only the top 5-6 inches of the plant with leaves.
Step 6 - Transplant the tomato
Take the tomato out of its pot and put it in the hole. Make the hole as shallow or deep as it needs to be. Gently fill in soil around the plant keeping the top 6 inches of the plant above the soil. When filling, make sure the soil you mixed fertilizer into finishes on top.
The lower stalk of the plant, previously unburied, will now put out new roots. Tomatoes are part of the same family as potatoes and take well to being buried up to their neck.
Step 7 - Water the tomato
Water the soil thoroughly ensuring everything is properly soaked. As the plant grows, water in a deep and infrequent manner; this will encourage a strong and deep root system.
General Tips -
- Mulch around the base of the tomato to provide nutrients and to keep the soil moist
- Don't plant tomatoes in the same spot every year
- Keep tomatoes in a sunny, airy spot
- To prolong the harvest, start a second set of tomatoes 2 weeks after the first
- Use a deep watering pipe
- Prune the suckers and lower branches of indeterminate varieties of tomatoes
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