Growing tomatoes isn’t exactly rocket science. However, there are some tips and tricks you may find useful for having a successful harvest.
1. Sunlight: No amount of Miracle Grow will help your tomato plants if they don’t get enough sunlight. Tomato plants need at least 8 hours of direct sunlight every day, more would be better. When it comes to garden real-estate, your tomato plants should be given first priority.
2. Space: Your tomato plants will need some breathing room, so don’t just pack them all together. You don’t need them competing for sunlight and nutrients, which are two things that they need a lot of. Spacing is also vital in the prevention of disease. It’s best to keep your tomato plants at least 3 feet apart in order to prevent the spread of disease.
3. Trim: Once your tomato plants have grown several feet you may find it advantageous to trim the bottom branches. These branches will get very little sun and will use up more nutrients than they are worth. You can try transplanting these trimmed branches elsewhere, since they may take root and develop into a new tomato plant.
4. Transplanting Branches: If you are transplanting a tomato branch, it’s important that you keep it in a warm place that gets a limited amount of sunlight and is also protected from the elements; your windowsill is your best option. You will also want to use a small stick to ensure that it remains upright. After a week or so it should be ready to be transplanted into your garden.
5. Cut the tip: Cutting off the very tip of the main stems will encourage your tomato plants to start flowering.
6. Research: Not all tomato plants are created equally. Some tomato plants are more susceptible to disease than others. Look for varieties that are denoted with either an F or a V. These letters mean that they are less susceptible to Fusarium and verticillium wilts. One should also take into consideration that some tomato plants mature faster than others. As such, if you live in a colder climate with a shorter growing season, you will want to choose your tomato varieties accordingly.
7. Diversify: Every year I plant different varieties of tomato plants. Inevitably some varieties will do better than others. If you plant all of one variety, then you are more susceptible to having a more catastrophic crop failure. However, if you are planning on keeping your seeds and planting them next year, you may end up with a cross breed. This is because tomato plants are pollinating and one variety may pollinate another; in doing so, either leaving you with a pleasant surprise, or a Frankenstein of a tomato plant. In in order to avoid this you may wish to plant your tomatos a greater distance apart.
8. Growth Cracks: Growth cracks are more common in some varieties and less common in others. They are quite often the result of an uneven growing period. Perhaps they get more water one week, and less water the next. This can cause an irregular growth rate resulting in cracked tomatoes. A heavy rain or change in weather can also be the culprit. Though they are not visually pleasing, they are still quite edible.
9. Epsom salts: Epsom salt helps tomato plants absorb nutrients from the soil. However, too much of a good thing can be harmful. Your best bet it to dissolve some Epsom salt in water and lightly sprinkle your tomato plants once every couple of weeks.
10. Plant Deep: When transplanting your tomatoes it’s important that you plant them good and deep to ensure that they get a good root system going. Though I haven’t tried it, I have heard that lightly scratching the base of the tomato plant that will be buried before planting will help promote a good root structure.
11. Mulch: Mulch the hell out of your tomato plants. Mulch will not only prevent weeds from growing up, but it will also lock in moisture, in doing so, ensuring a stable growth rate. It will also help prevent the spread of disease.