Gardening Vivian | 07 Apr 2011 03:39 pm

10 Tips For Growing Tomatoes

Growing your own tomatoes can be both fun and healthy. Keeping your plants organic by using only organic fertilizers and pesticides will result in better health for you and your whole family. Once you have grown your own tomatoes and see the difference in what you get from your own garden vs the grocery store you will never go back. Here are 10 important tips when growing your own tomatoes from seeds.

  1. Don’t Crowd the Seeds When Growing Tomato Plants from seeds, you want to leave enough room for the plants to branch out. To many plants placed too close together will inhibit there growth. Once the seeds grow and the first true leaves appear transplant each plant to 4 inch Pots. You will do this in about two weeks.
  2. Tomatoes Love Light If you are growing your plants indoors you will want to use grow lights. The plants will require 12 to 14 hours of light a day. Place your grow lights about 2 to 3 inches from the plants. Tomatoes love the light so you will want to plant them in the sunniest part of your garden.
  3. A Cool Breeze is Nice Tomatoes love to sway in the breeze. When growing them indoors it’s a good idea to put a fan on them twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes. This helps to promote strong stems.
  4. Tomatoes Love the heatWhen you get ready to plant your seedlings in the garden warm soil is the best method. You can place black plastic or weed block in the area prior to planting. This will heat the soil. You should do this 1 or 2 weeks before you plant. This warm soil will promote earlier production.
  5. Plant them Deep When you plant your tomatoes plant them deep. Plant them up to the first leaves. Tomato plants will grow roots right out of the stems and this will give a good root system for your plants. You can also dig a small trench and lay the plant sideways. Don’t worry the plant will grow toward the sun and come out straight. I like to use tomato cages to help support my plants once they have grown tall. It’s a good idea to put the cages into the ground first so that you don’t end up puncturing a healthy stem.
  6. Mulch is Good Placing Mulch around the plants is good as it keeps the soil born diseases from splashing up on the stems. Mulch also retains the water and helps to conserve water. Since tomatoes like the soil warm mulch can also cause the soil to be cooler so using a black rubber mulch works better for the warm loving plants like tomatoes. Since I grow only organic tomatoes I use no mulch or only organic materials for my mulch.
  7. Remove the bottom Leaves Once the plants grow to about 3 inches tall remove all the leaves from the stem up to about 1 inch from the soil. This will help prevent fungus from developing at the base of your plants. Spraying your plants weekly with compost tea also seems to be effective at warding off fungus diseases.
  8. Prune/Pinch Gives More Tomatoes Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. The crotch joint is where the branch joins the stem or two branches split. They won’t bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant. But go easy on pruning the rest of the plant. You can thin leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it’s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes. So take it easy with those pruning shears.
  9. Timely Watering Tomatoes like regular watering. You never want the plants to begin to wilt before you water. Timely watering is a must. Water the plants deeply and regularly especially while the plants are developing. If you miss a watering don’t over water to compensate. This will cause root rot and eventually kill your plants. When fruit begins to ripen cutting back on the watering will cause the sugars to concentrate and give a sweeter tomato. Don’t cut back too much though or the plant will drop it’s blossoms and fruit.
  10. Getting them to Set Tomatoes There are two varieties of tomatoes determinate and indeterminate Determinate tomatoes are varieties that grow to a fixed mature size and ripen all their fruit in a short period, usually about 2 weeks. Once this first flush of fruit has ripened, the plant will begin to diminish in vigor and will set little to no new fruit. Determinate tomato varieties are often referred to as “bush” tomatoes, because they do not continue growing in size throughout the growing season. They are generally smaller than indeterminate tomatoes, with most growing to a compact 4-5 feet. Pruning and removing suckers from determinate tomatoes is not recommended. Despite their compact size, staking or caging is still recommended, since the concentrated fruit set can contribute considerable weight to the branches. Many paste or Roma tomatoes are determinate varieties. Some others bred to be determinate include: Celebrity, Mar-globe and Rutgers. Growing determinate variety tomatoes makes good sense when you want a large amount of tomatoes all at one time, to make tomato sauce for example. Indeterminate tomatoes are actually vines that continue growing in length throughout the growing season. Also referred to as “vining” tomatoes, indeterminate tomato varieties will also continue to set and ripen fruit until killed off by frost. Tomato growers seldom allow tomato plants to actually vine. Indeterminate tomato plants will require substantial staking or caging to support what can become a large (6-10′) heavy plant. However, tomato plants can easily be grown as a hanging vine. This eliminates the need for support, keeps the fruit up off the ground and permits the plant to grow in an open manner, allowing sunlight to reach throughout the plant. The majority of tomato varieties are indeterminate including most heirlooms and most cherry types. Other indeterminate tomatoes include: ‘Beefsteak’, ‘Big Boy’ and ‘Brandy-wine’. Early producing varieties like, ‘Celebrity’ and ‘Early Girl’, are also indeterminate. However since they tend to mature earlier and die back before the end of the season, they are sometimes labeled semi-determinate. Heirloom tomatoes are all indeterminate varieties and the plants get so large and heavy they can break the stakes holding them. You can get indeterminate type tomatoes to set fruit earlier by pinching off the tips of the main stems in early summer.

In conclusion: Growing your own tomatoes is both easy and healthy. Start early in the season, follow these 10 simple steps and enjoy the best tasting tomatoes you have ever eaten.

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