Every gardener grows tomatoes. Even folks who don’t have the time or space for a garden, are growing tomatoes in pots on their patio or deck.
We love ’em in pasta sauce, in salads, and salsas, on pizzas and tomato sandwiches, and fresh in the garden, with our without salt. Eat ’em like an apple, or pop juicy and sweet candy, grape and cherry tomatoes. Bottom line:
There’s nothing like fresh homegrown tomatoes.
So let’s be sure to make the most of our precious summer growing time to get the best possible tomato harvests.
Great Seeds for Great Tomatoes
Top tips for tasty tomatoes begins with great seeds. The best seeds produce the best tomatoes. Johnny’s Seeds is a favorite source of quality seeds amongst the GardensAll community.1)
If you’re a seed saver, then save the seeds from your best tomatoes, and dry and store them accordingly. 1) Also, be sure to save the seeds from your best heirloom tomatoes to be sure they’ll “come true”*.
*”Come true”, meaning that you’ll get the same kind of tomato as the originating plant versus taking your chances with a hybrid.
When to Plant Tomatoes
Most people plant tomato seeds indoors 4-8 weeks before planting outdoors. If you have a long growing season and prefer to plant the directly into the ground, just be sure to do so after the last frost, and when the soil is between 64-82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Okay now do you want the real dirt on tomatoes? That’s it. It’s in the dirt.
Good tomatoes start with good seeds in good dirt.
It’s All About the Soil
Start with live dirt. It’s a whole secret world under those plants. The soil ecosystem is what holds it altogether and is the first source of life for your tomatoes. If you have good soil in your garden area and good “home-grown” compost, then you’re set. 1)
If you have poor soil and no seasoned compost, or need a shortcut for growing tomatoes in pots, we recommend:
If you’re short on time and have Amazon Prime, you can have these delivered to your door for free. We use this often, because we’ve discovered that it saves us a lot of time and gas, driving to and from the home stores, lugging the soil bags from store to car, then from the car to the garden. We let UPS deliver it to our garage and then it’s straight to the garden or the pot! 😎
Tomato soil must be alive with a presence of microorganisms and life giving minerals, healthy and free from any disease, especially fungal disease. If you get your tomatoes the best growing environment and conditions and avoid overcrowding, they’re less likely to become diseased.
However, if you notice any tomato planting ailing, such as leaves yellowing or with brown spots, apply a remedy immediately. To lean more about the types of tomato fungus and remedies, visit Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Extension.1)https://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/fs547/
Tomato blight is the #1 enemy of tomatoes.
The Best Soil for Tomatoes
The best soil for tomatoes is full of oxygen, neutral, non-acidic soil with a pH of 6.5-7.0. Interestingly…
the ideal ph range for tomatoes is also the ph that’s best for the human body.
Test the texture of your soil by scooping a handful, squeeze it, and let it run through your fingers. Is it soft and fluffy? If so, that’s a good sign. If you can you mold it in your hands, then you’ve got clay soil, and will need to amend it or bring in good soil.
Humans thrive in healthy environments, and it’s the same thing with plants. A plant’s environment begins with healthy soil. Soil is the plants home environment.
Test Your Soil
Even if you think you have good soil, it may not have the right pH balance for growing the best tomatoes. It’s worth saving your crop to make sure that your plant’s most important environment is the right one for best growth.
Soil Test Kits
There are many different kinds of soil testing. You can often get it tested for free through your local ag extension service, however, you may have to wait awhile to get the results back.
You can also get your own soil testers. There are many soil test kits and testing methods available to choose from, as you can see with this sampling:
It takes a few more minutes than the strips or probe, but we’ve found it to be more reliable for this price range. This type of soil tester has many favorable reviews as well.2)http://forums2.gardenweb.com/discussions/1604994/comments-on-cheap-soil-ph-meters3)http://www.gardenmyths.com/soil-ph-testers-accurate/
We also have an article on soil testing methods, if you want to explore that more.
Best PH Soil Level for Tomatoes is 6.5-7.0
Improve Your Garden Soil
If your soil is not optimal, you’ll need to either import soil or work in good amendments and a load of earthworms. Add in well-rotted compost with microorganisms, and some cow manure.
If you have a nearby farm source for horse or cow manure, you’ll want to mix it with a bit of straw to help it break down in a looser mixture. If not, you might buy bagged cow manure from your local home store or on Amazon. This 40 pound bag is currently available for free shipping with Amazon Prime, which is a pretty good deal since shipping on a 40lb item can cost more than the bag itself!
You can also add “Effective Microorganisms“, which is a fermented microbial product for soil conditioning, or you can make your own with compost tea.
Compost tea is like compost on steroids.
If you haven’t yet looked into compost tea, you’ll want to! Compost tea is a very simple overnight process that’s like compost on steroids, no worms required! You can read more about that here.4)
Tomatoes love phosphorous, magnesium and iron.
Mix manure and extra nutrients into the soil and let it sit and rest for 7-10 days. This gives the soil a chance to absorb the oxygen.
Plant Your Seeds in Epsom Soaked Soil
Once the soil has rested, give it a soak with Epsom salt water for the magnesium before setting your seedlings. Use 2 tablespoons Epsom salt per gallon of water. Oxygen is added when you water.
For more on the benefits and background of Epsom salt, you may enjoy this article.4)
Tomatoes are thirsty plants, but while they like to drink, they don’t like to get wet in the sun. So water the soil around the plant regularly to keep the soil moist by day, but don’t water the leaves. For this reason, drip irrigation works better for tomatoes than sprinklers.
Tomatoes love water.
Drip irrigation works best.
At about 4 weeks there will be so much growth on your tomatoes you may have to water 2x per day on hot days. Now it’s time to start giving your tomato plants some more food. Feed them 2-3 times per week. Look for a good tomato fertilizer with phosphorus, magnesium, iron, molybdenum and nitrogen.
Snip Those Suckers!
Wow! You really have some lush, healthy plants growing now, right? Yeeessss…. BUT… not great tomato plants… yet! Right now you’re growing leaves not tomatoes! All the food, water and energy is being sucked away from the tomatoes.
So if it’s tomatoes you want, time to get out your clippers and start snipping off all those extra leaves and branches. Not just those bottom ones that are dragging in the dirt. Be ruthless, take more, then more again.
Be ruthless. Snip, then snip again.
That’s what it takes to end up with lots of beautiful tomatoes. You only need 3 or 4 leaves at the top and when new branches or leaves try to grow back snip them off again right to the stem. Do this as soon as you see the flower buds start to show. You’ll thank me later when you have a bounty of those mouth-watering delicious tomatoes.
Now if you want to have the maximum amount of tomatoes in the least amount of time with the healthiest, tastiest tomatoes there are a couple more things you must do.
A Tomato Greenhouse Would be Awesome!
Tomatoes like greenhouses. Typically, you can better regulate the temperature. The best temperature for tomatoes is between 64-82 degrees Fahrenheit (18-28 degrees Celsius).
Greenhouses can also help with tomato plant fungus. Remember how tomatoes don’t like having water on the visible part of the plant? In a greenhouse you can control the watering with drip irrigation around the soil which keeps the leaves and fruits dry and less prone to fungus.
The greenhouse will allow them to withstand a bit of frost but it can also over heat them, which stops their production. So just make sure your greenhouse is well ventilated and shades out the sun when it gets too hot.
The best greenhouse for tomatoes are those with translucent white coverings that diffuse the light. Diffused light reflects more fully throughout the entire greenhouse and eliminates over exposure from direct sunlight, which is why row covers and high tunnels also use the translucent white coverings.
There are a number of options in DIY materials as well as greenhouse kits in different sizes and styles that you can put together. So far, of the many people we hear from who have greenhouses, we’ve yet to hear someone say they wish they didn’t have one! 👨🏼🌾
Pollinating Tomatoes in the Greenhouse
In a greenhouse you’ll have to handle the pollination since you won’t be dependent on wind, bees or birds, (excepting for when you’re able to leave the sides or door open when the weather’s milder).
With those huge productive plants you’re growing, the traditional wooden stake or cage won’t work anymore. Take a medium width rope, weight it down with a heavy object, fasten it to a metal or wooden bar that you’ve attached to the top of the greenhouse, then vine the tomato plant around it,
To pollinate, get a stick of the proper length to reach comfortably to that bar and where each rope is fastened begin to beat the bar causing a vibration to go throughout the entire plant. Voila! Your pollinating is done! Do this once or twice a week for the whole growing season and just about every flower your plant produces will turn into a juicy, scrumptious tomato!
Now you’ve got it all. The lowdown on growing deliciously mouth-watering tomatoes.
You may also enjoy these articles on pruning tomato plants, building tomato cages and tips for terrific tomato yield.4)https://gardensall.com/guide-pruning-tomato-plants/5)https://gardensall.com/tomato-cages-you-can-build/6)https://gardensall.com/tips-for-terrific-tomato-yield/
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