How to Plant and Grow Tomatoes. When it comes to growing your own fruits and vegetables, tomatoes give you the biggest bang for your buck. Tomato plants are cheap, deliver pounds of products, and fit even in the smallest backyards or balconies. With that said, you need to grow them under certain conditions to get perfect, ready-to-eat tomatoes that are firm yet juicy and sweet yet spicy.
In fact, tomato plants can be quite fussy (read: difficult) to grow. No matter which variety you choose – beef steak, heirloom, cherry, etc. – use your green thumb by giving your plants the right amount of strong, direct sunlight (at least six to eight hours of sun per day) and frequent watering. While tomatoes thrive in the summer months – more specifically, from May to October – the extreme heat can affect their growth process. Be sure to choose heat-resistant varieties and be patient when the weather warms up.
Choose the right variety
From huge beef steaks to tiny cherries, tomatoes come in many shapes, sizes and colors. While part of this is due to the climate (ask your local garden centre or the cooperative advisory service for advice) and personal preference, there is one crucial difference that every gardener should know: certain and indefinite tomatoes.
Determine (or bush) tomatoes tend to bear fruit for a period of two weeks and then stop, making them ideal for canning. They are also more compact, which means that they are a smart choice for container gardens.
Indefinitely Tomatoes grow longer vines and produce more aromatic fruits throughout the season. Most common varieties fall into this category, including heirlooms.
Plant tomato plants
When using your own seeds, plant them 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch apart in homes that are set up in a warm, sunny room. Once the seedlings grow their second set of leaves (the first real leaves), transplant them into plastic cups and bury the stems deeper than before. This promotes a strong root system. If you buy grafts in a kindergarten, you should let them develop a solid root system before planting.
Wait until the temperature stays warm before placing plants in the ground. If you choose a place in your garden, look for a bed in full sun. Dig bigger holes than you think you need to be at least 2 feet apart and adjust the plants so that the lowest leaves are at ground level. Some gardeners bury almost the entire plant as new roots sprout on the stems and lead to more fruits. Then fill the holes with a mixture of compost and soil.
Cover the bed with a layer of mulch, straw, or grass debris to prevent weeds from appearing.
Water and fertilize often
Soak your bed with 1 inch of water once a week, more often in midsummer. Make sure you pour the water directly onto the floor, not the leaves.
Adding compost when the first fruit ripens encourages new growth. A diluted fish emulsion fertilizer can also help, but be careful not to feed too much. Over time, too much nitrogen will make your plants abundant, but not very fertile.
Post tomato plants
Support your tomato plants by tying the stems to posts or cages. If you leave the vines on the ground, they are more susceptible to pests or diseases.
You want 5 to 7 foot posts that are about 7 inches in the ground. If you can’t find cages large or sturdy enough, you can make your own with welded wire mesh from the hardware store. Just make sure you can run your hand through the squares!
Prune tomato plants regularly
To increase fruit production, you should trim your tomato plants regularly. First, remove all suction cups – small shoots that emerge from the stems at the base of each leaf – as quickly as possible. This helps the plants to stay upright, improve air circulation and grow better products. While tomatoes in cages can develop one or two suction cups, staked tomatoes are best used as a single stem. Try to pinch visible suction cups (or even pluck with your fingers) every few days.
Harvest (and enjoy!) Your tomatoes
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