Thursday, April 24, 2014

Growing Tomatoes


It seems that everyone who thinks of starting a garden wants to plant tomatoes.  And rightly so!  They taste good right off the vine, or in salsa, or your favorite soup.  The list is endless…and yummy!
Although they can be one of the easiest plants to grow, there are a few things you should know about growing these red delights.

Starting from seed. If you are leaning toward starting your plants from seed, here are a few suggestions:

** Don’t overcrowd your seedlings.  There is a natural tendency to plop a couple of seeds into a pot so you can assure at least one of them will grow.  There is nothing wrong with that, but you need to be certain as they start to sprout they have plenty of room to stretch their legs, otherwise it will inhibit their growth. Thin the seedlings about the time they get their second set of leaves.  Do this by GENTLY transplanting individual seedlings into larger 4-inch pots.

** Give them lots of light.  Tomato plants need strong direct sunlight for about 14-18 hours per day which may mean you may have to resort to artificial plant lighting. And so the plant doesn’t become leggy, keep the light only a couple of inches above the plant.  This will mean you’ll have to move the light as they grow.

** Fan your seedlings.  Tomato plants develop stronger stems when they sway back and forth.  It occurs outdoors, but if you are starting your seeds inside try placing a fan nearby for about 15 minutes twice a day.

Moving the plants outdoors. The following are suggestions for tomatoes started indoors by you, or if you purchase them from a nursery:

** Choose a sunny location.  Tomatoes need sun all day long.

** Tomatoes are heat lovers.  Cover the soil with plastic where you intend to plant the seedlings a couple of weeks before you intend to move the plants outdoors.  The warmer the soil the earlier you’ll see tomatoes on the vine.  The added benefit is it deters weeds from germinating.

** Bury your tomato plants as deep as possible—all the way up to the top few leaves.  This will allow roots to develop all along their stems and more roots make a stronger plant. 

As the plant grows.

** Mulch is good—much later.  Give the ground time to warm up.  As I said, tomatoes are heat lovers.  Mulching is a good way to conserve water, but it also tends to cool the soil.  The suggestion is to try plastic mulch specially designed for tomatoes that will keep the soil warm.

** When the plant is about 3 foot tall, remove the bottom leaves.  This prevents the risk of fungus problems.  

** Prune your plants by pinching away the suckers.  Those little leaves grow in the joint of two branches.  They never bear fruit, but zap the rest of the plant of its strength, and in the end, reduce the number of tomatoes on the vine.  

** Water!  The plants need a regular watering; otherwise, your tomatoes will have blossom end rot or will start to crack.

Time to eat!  Pull out your recipes or just grab one off the vine. 

Your turn:  How do you usually grow your tomatoes?  Do you start them from seed?  Or purchase them at a local nursery?

2 comments:

  1. Great tips! I start mine from seed but lost three good plants to shock :( I replaced them with store bought ones.

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  2. I was really surprised how using a fan could make such a big difference in the thickness of the stems! Thanks for dropping by!

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