Planting a tomato plant

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Tips For Tomato Planting – How To Plant A Tomato

Tomatoes are probably the most popular summer vegetable for experts and novices alike. Once all danger of frost is past and nighttime temperatures have risen above 55 F. (13 C.) degrees, it’s time to think about tomato planting. If you live in the South, tomato seeds can be sown directly into the garden. In cooler zones, you’ll be setting out transplants; questions about how to plant tomatoes arise.

Tips for Planting Tomato Plants

When planting tomato plants for family consumption, here’s a helpful tip. If you only want fresh fruit, purchase about three plants per person in your household. If you’re looking for fruit to process, you’ll need from five to 10 seedlings per person.

Before we talk about how to plant a tomato, let’s talk about what to look for before planting. Tomato plants should be straight and sturdy and six to eight inches

high. They should have four to six true leaves. Those six cell packs will transplant just as well as the individually grown tomato. Planting will be the same for both, but make sure to tear the peat pot off around the top of the individual or make sure it sits beneath soil level.

How to Plant a Tomato

When asking about how to plant tomatoes, the first question is how deep. Tomatoes have the ability to grow roots along their stems, so when planting tomato plants, plant deep; right up to the first set of leaves. This takes care of those leggy tomato seedlings. If the plant is too long and wobbly, dig a small trench and lay the plant on its side, gently bending it into a right angle. Bury the stem in this position leaving those first two leaves exposed. Some gardeners believe those leggy starters will form a healthier plant than those with a more compact form.

Water your seedlings in with a weak solution of high phosphorus fertilizer. Now is the time to choose your support: stakes, cages, or unsupported. How far apart to plant tomato seedlings depends on your chosen support. If you decide to use cages or stakes, place them now so you don’t damage the growing roots later.

How Far Apart to Plant Tomato Plants

Plants should be about 3 feet apart when tomato planting with cages. Staking only requires about 2 feet between plants. Loosely tie the plants to their stakes as they grow, but set the stakes when you set the seedlings. You’ll need 3 feet between the plants and 5 feet between the rows if you’re planting tomato plants to grow naturally.

Growing tomatoes is not only a fun hobby, it’s also a great way to enjoy naturally grown produce. However, one of the main keys to growing delicious tomatoes is making sure you plant your seeds far enough apart to ensure optimal growth.

There are many different types of ways to grow tomatoes, and with each method, the spacing of the tomatoes will be a little bit different. Some of the different ways to plant tomatoes include staking, caging and sprawling. So, why is spacing so important?

Tomatoes are a plant that require plenty of sunshine. Because of this, each plant needs to have adequate spacing. By giving each plant the right amount of space, you ill give them maximum exposure to the sunlight, so they’ll grow to their full potential.

In addition to this, when you place plants too close to each other, disease can transfer from one plant to another. As a result, you could potentially lose all your plants. Although there are several products on the market that claim to help prevent this from happening, you should still take precautionary measures.

Another problem that arises from having your tomato plants too close is the inability to remove different pests. One of the most common pests you have to worry about is the caterpillar. These little guys find the tomato foliage to be delicious and can do quite a lot of damage. When your plants are too close, it’s extremely hard to see the caterpillars and efficiently remove them.

Understanding the basics of tomatoes

Although you’re probably pretty interested in learning about how close to plant tomatoes, it’s best if you begin by understanding some basic principles first. There are two kinds of tomatoes. You have your determinate and your indeterminate.

Determinate: Determinate tomato plants grow to an expected height. There are quite a few varieties of determinate plants, but each one has it’s on expected maximum growth potential. Their expected height is anywhere from 2 to 4 feet, and they’re perfect for planting in little containers.

Indeterminate: Indeterminate tomato plants on the other hand will just continue to grow. There is not expected height. Some indeterminate tomato plants have been known to grow 8 feet or even more. These plants need much more room to grow. In addition to this, they also have to be staked.

As you can see, the amount of space you provide your tomato plants will largely influence the success it will have. However, it’s important to know specifically what kind of tomato you in fact will be growing, so how far apart to plant tomatoes.

How close to plant tomatoes when I’m growing tomatoes in cages?

Growing your tomatoes in a rectangular or acylinder wire cage is the common practice for indeterminate tomatoes. These wired cages allow the tomato plant to grow in their most natural environment while also eliminating the need to stake it. Wire cages can be purchased at most home improvement stores. However, you can also build them yourself using wire fencing and bending them to the right shape and position.

The cages you use should provide each plant with at least 6 inches of space around it. This will allow you to reach your hand in a pick your tomatoes. Typically, a good-sized cage for your indeterminate tomato plants will be around 6 feet tall and 18 to 36 inches wide. As far as your other measurements, you’ll also want to give your plants at least 24 to 30 inches of space and at least 30 to 42 inches between each of your rows. This will give your tomato plants more than enough room to grow. Tomato spacing in a garden is an extremely important step to growing quality tomatoes.

How far apart should I plant tomatoes when I am staking them?

In addition to cages, indeterminate tomato plants can also be grown with the use of stakes. Stakes are for plants that tend to grow tall. Gardeners that are planning on using stakes should space out their indeterminate tomato plants by at least 24 and 30 inches and your rows should be about 40 inches apart.

To use stakes, you’ll want to begin by acquiring wood stakes that are sturdy, tough and have no cracks. They have to also be able to withstand the weight of the rising plant and hold the plant intact during a storm or a hard gust of wind.

To add to this, your stakes should also be about 6.6 feet long and about 2 inches wide. Most home improvement stores carry these stakes at a reasonable price. Once you have purchased them, you’ll want to drive the stakes into the ground about 1 foot deep. You also want to make sure that when you put your stakes into the ground, they’re about 4 to 6 inches away from the tomato plant it’s supporting.

After your tomato plant has begun to grow, take twine, rope or string and tie your tomato plant to the stake. You should do this about every 10 to 12 inches. It’s essential that the twine, rope or string you use is strong and can sustain heavy winds.

How far apart do you plant tomatoes when I’m letting them sprawl?

When you let your tomato plant sprawl out as it grows instead of caging or staking it, it’s called sprawling. This type of growing process is usually done with determinate plants and not indeterminate ones. Why? As indeterminate tomato plants begin to sprawl outward, they will begin to snarl and get tangled up. As a result, your tomato plants become very hard to harvest.

The proper way to space your sprawling tomatoes should be planted 3 to 4 feet apart and your rows should be planted approximately 4 to 5 feet apart. This will give them maximum exposure to the sunlight and enough room to sprawl outward.

As your sprawling tomato plant grows overtime, they will begin to lay on the ground in the dirt. As a result, your tomatoes can begin to decay and become rotten. To fight this problem, you’ll want to lay mulch or fabric on the ground to protect them. This will help ensure your tomatoes turn our great.

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Allison

Allison Cartwright has been writing professionally since 2009. Cartwright has published several eBooks on craft and garden-related subjects. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas.

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We know, we know. This goes against everything you’ve ever heard about “don’t plant too deep or you’ll kill the plant.” Tomatoes break that rule because they actually have the ability to sprout additional roots along the buried stem. These extra roots strengthen the plant so that it can support more fruit and is better able to survive hot weather. (This applies whether you’re growing in the ground, in a raised bed, or in a container.)

Here’s how to plant your tomato deep in the ground:

  1. Start with great soil. If you’re growing in the ground, improve the texture and nutrition of your native soil with compost or Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Vegetables and Herbs. When growing tomatoes in containers, fill pots with a premium quality potting mix like Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix, which is lighter and fluffier than in-ground soil. Raised beds need soil that’s heavier than potting mix but lighter than in-ground soil; Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil is a good choice.
  2. Dig a hole that is about 2/3 the height of the plant, including the root ball.
  3. If desired, pinch or snip off the branches on the portion to be buried. This can make burying the plant easier, but it isn’t necessary.
  4. Remove the plant from its container (or, if it’s in a biodegradable pot, simply remove the label and very bottom of the pot) and place it in the hole.
  5. If you prefer, you can instead lay the plant on its side in trench, provided that it is at least 5 or 6 inches deep when buried and that the ground beneath it isn’t hard as a brick. To do this, angle the plant so that the growing tip is above ground.
  6. Fill in the hole or trench with some of the soil you removed. Only the top few inches of the plant will be exposed.
  7. Label the plant to help you remember which variety you’re growing.
  8. Water well. Throughout the growing season, continue to water thoroughly whenever the top inch of soil is dry.
  9. Make sure your tomatoes get just the right kind and amount of nutrition by feeding with a top quality plant food like Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food, which contains calcium to help ward off blossom end rot.

Now comes the fun part. Within a couple of months or so, your plants with super roots will delight you with a bountiful harvest of lovely fruit!

“What is the absolute best way to plant tomatoes?”

That question was posed to us last week via email from one of our readers located in upstate New York. It is a question we actually receive quite often – and one we love to answer.

Getting your plants off to a great start on planting day is vital to their success.

We love growing tomatoes. In fact, our heirloom tomato crop is by far the most utilized of all of the vegetables we grow.

Beyond eating loads of them fresh in season – we use our tomato harvest to make homemade tomato juice, pizza and pasta sauce, salsa and picante.

And then of course there is homemade ketchup, fire-roasted tomatoes, and a long list of soups – from tomato to chili, vegetable and more!

So, as we approach another glorious planting season, I thought it would be the perfect time to tackle the subject with this week’s garden article.

The simple fact is – when and how you plant tomatoes really can make a huge difference in how your plants perform. Getting your tomato plants off to a great start is vital to a great harvest.

And over the years, we have learned to put into practice a few key tips that help our tomato plants produce heavy yields, year after year.

The Perfect Way To Plant Tomatoes

Let The Soil Warm

The first step to success is planting when the soil has warmed up, and not a moment before.

Plants that go into the ground too early can have their growth stunted by the cool soil.

Tomato plants that are transplanted in warmer soil adjust more rapidly, absorb nutrients better, and grow at a much faster rate.

Be sure to wait until the threat of frost has passed, and you have had several days of warming sun to heat the soil.

If you live in a cooler climate, you might even try helping to warm the soil up by laying down black plastic a week or so before you will be planting. The plastic will absorb the suns rays and heat the soil. Whatever you do, let that soil warm up!

Use A Post Hole Digger To Create The Perfect Planting Hole

This has been a trick of ours for years, and works like a charm. When we plant tomatoes, we use a post hole digger to create all of our transplant holes.

Not only is it fast, but it makes an 8 to 10″ deep, extra-wide planting hole. The hole can be filled with the perfect soil mix to provide nutrients to the growing plant.

The wider hole also allows for the roots of the transplants to expand quickly in loose soil.

Put Tomato Supports In Before You Plant

Breaking apart the root ball helps the plants root system expand quickly

This is a big one! We put our Tomato supports in before we plant, but after we first dig the holes with the post hole digger.

Why? Putting them in later can disturb the tomatoes root system, and it requires foot work around the base of the root zone.

That foot traffic compacts the soil and roots, which can hinder plant growth. The less you tramp around the root zone of your plants – the better they perform.

Why after we dig the holes first? Because it’s easier to dig without the support in the way!

And if you are looking for a great homemade way to stake your tomatoes and peppers this year – be sure to see our article on how to make your very own inexpensive tomato supports : (See: Stake-A-Cage Tomato Supports)

Mix In The Success Soil

Our tomato crop in mid summer form

Now that you have that perfect planting hole, fill it up with an incredible soil mix. We fill our planting holes with an equal mixture of compost and garden soil – with a few extra organic ingredients added in. It simply works magic on our plants.

In addition to the soil and compost, we crush a few eggs shells, and add in a tablespoon of spent coffee grounds along with a couple of tablespoons of worm castings.

The eggs shells break down and add calcium to the soil, helping prevent black rot and blossom rot. The coffee grounds and worm castings are powerful fertilizers, that release their nutrients back to the plants as they grow.

It is a mixture our tomatoes thrive on! The worm castings are truly the star – if you have never tried them – do so this year – they work! Product link : Worm Castings

Plant Deep and Spread The Roots

We plant our tomato transplants on the deep side, it protects roots and keeps them from drying out too quickly. We fill the bottom 2 to 3″ of the planting hole with our soil mix.

Next, we gently break apart the roots that have balled up around the transplant. Nothing too crazy, just a quick flip our fingers to break them out of their circular or square pattern.

This is an important step, as it allows plants to keep from getting root bound.

Next, we place transplants on top of the 2 to 3″ of soil cushion, and fill around the plant with the soil mix.

On top we add in a few more tablespoons of worm castings, egg shells and coffee grounds. These will decay slowly and provide more nutrients to the soil as the plants grow.

Mulch and Water!

Mulch is the final key, and a big one! It not only keeps out competing weeds, but mulch provides insulation to the tomato plant’s root zone. That helps keep the soil temperature and moisture levels regulated on both cool evenings and hot days.

We use a 1″ to 2″ thick mulching of compost about 8″ in diameter around each plant. We then cover the rest of the area in straw, leaving no dirt at all exposed in our growing row. N

o exposed dirt + no weeds. And that all helps lead to a great harvest, and one happy gardener!

Here is to a great tomato crop this year! Jim and Mary.

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The Perfect Way To Plant Tomatoes – 5 Simple Steps To Success! Tagged on: growing tomatoes hot to grow tomatoes how to plant tomatoes planting tomatoes tomato planting tips tomato tips Tomatoes

How far apart to plant tomatoes

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Properly spaced tomato plants are likely to be healthier and produce a larger harvest than those that are overcrowded or too widely spaced. Tomato spacing depends on two factors; what types of tomatoes you’re growing and how you plan on supporting the plants. Once you have those key pieces of information, it’s easy to figure out how far apart to plant tomatoes.

The distance between tomato plants depends on the types of tomatoes and how you intend to support them.

How far apart to plant tomatoes: Why tomato spacing is important

There are four main reasons to aim for well-spaced tomato plants:

  1. Disease prevention. Tomato plants are susceptible to many diseases and if spaced too closely, insufficient air circulation can elevate the risk of disease.
  2. Adequate light. Heat-loving tomato plants need plenty of sunlight for healthy growth. If you crowd seedlings, the plants will cast shade on their neighbours as they grow.
  3. Production. I like to use up all my growing space leaving little open soil for weeds to grow. Spacing tomatoes too far apart means that you’re leaving space for weed growth, losing valuable growing space, and reducing your overall potential harvest.
  4. Less competition. As noted above, air flow is decreased when plants are crowded, but it also means they’re competing for water and nutrients.

Give tomato plants enough room to promote good air flow. This can help reduce the occurrence of tomato diseases.

Types of tomatoes

Determinate – Determinate tomato plants are also called ‘bush tomatoes’ and form compact plants that grow about three feet tall, although some larger varieties can grow up to four feet. Because the fruits of determinate tomatoes ripen around the same time, they’re often grown by gardeners who like to can or preserve their harvest. Determinate tomatoes are often left unsupported, but they can also be held upright with sturdy tomato cages.

Indeterminate – Unlike determinate tomato plants which grow to a certain size and stop, indeterminate varieties can grow six to eight feet tall. They only stop growing when the end-of-season frost finally kills the plants. Also called ‘vining tomatoes’, they yield their harvest over a long period of time and are best grown on sturdy supports like tall wire cages, stakes, or trellises.

Tomatoes that are staked or trellised can be planted closer than those allowed to sprawl on the ground.

Best spacing for tomato plants

How far apart to plant tomatoes is dependent on the types of tomatoes grown – determinate or indeterminate – and the types of supports used. Trellised plants in sturdy cages or supports can tolerate a closer planting than those allowed to sprawl on the ground. Of course, there are other benefits to trellising your tomato plants. They’ll be less likely to suffer soil-borne diseases.

Determinate tomatoes – Space dwarf determinate tomatoes, which only grow 12 to 18 inches tall one to two feet apart. Full-sized determinate tomatoes should be planted two feet apart.

Indeterminate tomatoes – This is where supporting your plants makes a big difference with spacing. I plant staked indeterminate tomato plants 18 to 24 inches apart. They are pruned regularly during the growing season to control growth and encourage good air circulation. And while I don’t allow any of my tomato plants to sprawl on the ground, if you prefer to leave your indeterminate plants unstaked, space them three to four feet apart.

A bumper crop of flavourful tomatoes is the reward for proper spacing.

How far apart to space the rows?

When growing in gardens or raised beds, leave four feet between rows to permit good air flow and, in the case of in-ground gardens, to give you space to work around the plants.

Keep on top of pruning

Now that you’ve got your tomatoes properly spaced, don’t neglect pruning! Determinate tomatoes don’t need to be pruned, but staked indeterminate tomatoes need regular pinching to remove suckers which promotes healthy, productive plants. It’s not difficult to prune tomato plants, but it should be done every 7 to 10 days.

Suckers are vegetative shoots that develop in the crotch between the main stem and a branch. Suckers do produce flowers and fruits and while leaving suckers can mean more tomatoes, the overall fruit size will be decreased. And of course, the plants become a tangle of foliage with little airflow.

In early summer, I let two to three suckers develop, but pinch the rest every week or so. When the suckers are 2 to 3 inches long they’re easy to remove with your fingers. If you let them grow larger, you may need a pair of pruners to cleanly remove suckers.

Learning how far apart to plant tomatoes isn’t difficult, and it’s so important for the health and production of your plants. For further reading on growing tomatoes, be sure to check out the award-winning book, Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier.

For more on growing tomatoes, check out these related posts:

  • How to grow tomatoes from seed
  • 5 tips for growing tomatoes in raised beds
  • Terrific tomato varieties to grow in your garden
  • Should you grow grafted tomatoes?

Have you been wondering how far apart to plant tomatoes? Any tips to add?

By simply avoiding a few common tomato planting mistakes, you can be well on your way to growing and harvesting your best tomato crop ever this year!

Root bound plants, such as this one, need to be broken up before planting.

Tomatoes are one of the most beloved crops of the home vegetable gardener. And they can also be one of the most frustrating.

Whether its dealing with under-performing plants, pest problems, or diseases like tomato blight and blossom end rot, tomatoes can bewilder and frustrate even the veteran gardener.

With that said, there are some common tomato planting mistakes that can put the home tomato grower behind the 8 ball right from the beginning. And by simply avoiding those pitfalls early on, you can set your garden up for tomato growing success!

Let’s take a look at the four below.

4 Tomato Planting Mistakes To Avoid

#1 Planting Tomatoes In The Same Spot Year After Year

Tomatoes are extremely vulnerable to disease, especially soil-borne disease. They also require a fair amount of nutrients from the soil for strong growth. Nutrients can be depleted by growing the same crop year after year in the same space.

One of the best ways to alleviate both issues is to rotate and move your tomato crop every growing season.

Tomato plants should never be planted in the same area for at least 3 years. This keeps issues like tomato blight and black rot at bay. It also allows the soil time to recharge. If you are a container tomato planter, that means completely changing the soil in pots each year as well.

#2 Failing To Put Tomato Stakes / Supports In Before Planting

One of the best things you can do for tomato transplants is to keep the soil around their roots free of foot traffic. Compacted soil compresses the root structure below the ground. And that spells no, or slow growth for the plants above ground.

Drive tomato stakes and supports in before planting. If you use wire cages or fencing, put them in as soon as you plant so you can easily slip them over the plant and not disturb the plant’s root structure below.

This sounds so simple, but it is easy to compact the soil and damage the roots below when installing cages days or weeks after planting. See: The Ultimate Homemade Tomato Support – The Stake A Cage

#3 Failing To Create A Proper Planting Hole

The planting hole is so vital for the long-term success of your tomato plants. Simply digging a small hole and covering up your tomato plant with the left-over dirt is a recipe for disaster.

It is important to create a deep hole to break up the soil for easy growth. We use a post-hole digger to create wide 6″ x 8″ deep holes. Next, you need to provide power to the planting hole. For this, mix in a fair amount of compost and nutrients to help power the plant as it grows.

Getting your plants off to a great start on planting day is vital to their success.

We use an equal mixture of compost and garden soil along with a few crushed eggs shells, 1-2 tablespoons of coffee grounds, and 2 tablespoons of worm castings.

The compost, coffee grounds and worm castings provide the perfect mix of slow-release nutrients to the plants. Meanwhile, the egg shells help add calcium to the soil which helps to prevent blossom-end rot.

Plant the transplants deep into the soil. We plant transplants about 6″ deep into the soil mix. This helps develop deep and powerful roots. Last but not least, one of the biggest mistakes folks make is to not break apart the roots of transplant before planting.

Simply pry from the bottom of the soil and gently break apart the roots that have balled up around the transplant. This allows them to grow quickly into the new soil.

#4 Failing To Mulch Plants

Mulching plays such a pivotal part in the success of tomato plants. Mulch helps tomato plants retain moisture and keep weeds from stealing nutrients from the plants.

After planting, apply a 2 to 3″ thick mulch of straw, shredded leaves, compost or grass clippings around plants. We love using compost, as it actually provides additional nutrients that leach into the soil when it rains and as it breaks down.

Happy Gardening! Mary and Jim. To receive our 3 Home, Garden, Recipe and Simple Life articles each week, sign up below for our free email list. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. This article may contain affiliate links.

4 Tomato Planting Mistakes – How To Grow Great Tomatoes! Tagged on: growing tomatoes how to grow great tomatoes tomato planting mistakes tomato tips

How to Grow Tomatoes

By Charlie Nardozzi, The Editors of the National Gardening Association

Tomatoes require a long growing season, so your best bets are to buy plants or start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost date. Either way, you want a stocky, 6- to 10-inch tall transplant ready to go into the garden after all danger of frost has passed.

To jump-start tomatoes, preheat the garden soil by laying a plastic sheet over the garden bed, pull it tight, cover the edges with soil, and let the plastic heat the soil for 2 weeks before transplanting.

Planting, trellising, and pruning tomatoes

To get the best tomatoes, you need to plant properly, keep the fruits off the ground, and prune them.

Here are the basic steps for planting tomato plants:

  1. Dig a hole twice the diameter and depth of the tomato root ball.

  2. Place a small handful of all-purpose organic fertilizer or compost into the hole.

  3. Plant the tomato transplant up to its two top-most set of leaves.

    Roots will form along the buried stem.

    Bury the stem vertically or horizontally in the ground, leaving at least two sets of leaves poking out.

So soon after you transplant, you have to decide which trellising method to use:

  • Staking: Drive a wooden or metal stake into the ground next to the tomato transplant. Fasten the main trunk of the tomato to the stake with plastic ties.

  • Caging: Insert a three-ringed metal cage into the soil around your tomato transplant. Keep branches inside the cage as the plant grows.

    Stake or cage your tomatoes.

To keep tomato plants vigorous, remove extra side branches. When these suckers are 3 to 4 inches long, remove them by pinching them out or by cutting them back to the main stem with scissors.

Remove suckers from tomato plants.

Fertilizing and watering your tomatoes

Side-dress your tomato plants with a complete organic fertilizer, such as 5-5-5. Apply the first side-dressing when the tomatoes are golf-ball sized, and then side-dress every three weeks.

Use fertilizers with lower rates of nitrogen; higher rates cause tomato plants to sport lots of dark green leaves and produce few tomatoes.

Tomatoes need 1 inch of water a week, but they may need more in areas with hot, dry, windy summers.

Eliminating pests and other problems

Here are a few insects that are a problem with tomatoes:

  • Tomato hornworm: These huge, green caterpillars, which sometimes grow to 4 inches long, have a horn-like “tail.” A few hungry hornworms can devastate a tomato plant quickly. If you see a hornworm that has what looks like grains of rice stuck on it, leave it alone! The “rice grains” are actually the cocoons of its natural enemy, a parasitic wasp.

    Pick off hornworms and drown them in soapy water.

  • Tomato fruitworm: This green, 1-inch-long caterpillar with white or yellow stripes feeds on foliage and fruits. They can be handpicked from plants.

  • Stink bug: These 1/2-inch-long gray or green shield-shaped insects primarily feed on fruits, causing hard, white or yellow spots on the tomato skin. To control stink bugs, keep your garden weed-free.

Mmmm…fresh, juicy, ripe garden tomatoes.

They taste better than any store bought tomato, and you want to grow one.

Or dozens. Or HUNDREDS!

Whoa, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

The biggest hurdle with growing tomatoes is that they are nutrient hogs. So, in order to grow a really, great tomato plant without deficiencies or diseases, it’s important to plant it CORRECTLY.

Common tomato plant ailments

Sure, you can go grab a tomato plant and stick that sucker in the ground, but you’ll find that by incorporating a few things into your planting practice, your plant will not only produce MORE tomatoes, they’ll won’t have any common tomato ailments.

How to Plant Tomatoes like a PRO

First things first, you need to start off with a good soil base. If you’re planting in the ground and wanting to amend your own native soil, I recommend this combination, but if you’re planting in raised garden beds and are building a soil from scratch, this is the soil for you.

After you’ve got a good base, here’s what we put into the hole when we plant tomatoes:

  • Something Fishy

    A fish carcass or diluted fish emulsion provides a good source of nitrogen and also encourages microbial activity which will feed the roots. (You can also use shrimp, crab, lobster)
    (We place about 1/4 c. fish emulsion in 1 gallon water and pour that entire thing over the plant’s base when we’re done planting)

  • Something Shelly

    Egg shells or shellfish shells provide calcium and prevent blossom end rot, a common tomato ailment.
    (We place about 1/2 c. per tomato plant)

  • Phosphorus

    We use bone meal or bat guano which provides a good source of phosphorus.
    (1/2 c. per tomato plant)

  • Nitrogen

    Blood meal or worm castings provide a bioavailable source of nitrogen which the plant can use immediately.
    (1 c. per tomato plant)

  • A Root Enhancer

    We use mycorrhizal fungi, just a few tablespoons, to help the roots develop a fungal web underground, which will make sure your tomato roots will be able to uptake everything efficiently from the soil.
    (2 TBS. per tomato plant)

Other tips to improve your tomato production

  • Don’t push or pack down your tomato plant, the roots & soil needs air flow and oxygen.
  • Water well the first day. Start with your fish emulsion mixture, then water again later in the day.
  • Try out some companion planting! Tomatoes do well when planted around peppers & carrots, and if you throw some basil and onions around them, they will help deter pests.

Finally, if you REALLY want to have an abundance of tomatoes, do this simple tip once your plant starts growing! You’d be surprised how well this simple step can make a difference!

Good luck, and I hope all your tomato dreams come true!

How to Plant Tomatoes

Welcome to Homegrown/Homemade, a video series from FineGardening.com and our sister site FineCooking.com. We’ll be following a gardener (Fine Gardening associate editor Danielle Sherry) and a cook (Fine Cooking Web producer Sarah Breckenridge) as they plant, maintain, harvest, store, and prepare garden vegetables. If you’re new to vegetable gardening, you’ll find these videos very helpful. In this video, the topic is tomatoes..

Episode 1: How to Plant Tomatoes

Here, Danielle show Sarah a couple of tips for setting tomato seedlings in the ground. For the strongest plants, clip off the lower leaves first, then plant the stems deep in the soil. That allows roots to form along the underground portion of the stems, increasing the nutrient flow to the plant and anchoring it more firmly. Once the raised bed is planted, Sarah and Danielle set up stakes and netting trellises. It’s best to do this before the plants, and their root systems, start to grow.

Episode 2: How to Prune Tomato Plants

The weather has been warm, and the tomato patch has turned into a jungle, so much so that the bed is getting crowded. Pruning will make it manageable again, and also allow sun to reach the ripening fruit. The first order of business is trimming back any low-lying branches that touch the ground. followed by pinching out small suckers that appear below the first flower cluster. (A sucker is a shoot that angles out between the stem and the horizontal branches.) Larger suckers can be controlled by Missouri pruning, which involves snipping off the top of the sucker. Missouri pruning must be repeated from time to time.

As you prune, keep an eye out for dead, damaged and diseased leaves. These should be removed as well.

Mostly, it’s the indeterminate tomato plants that require pruning. Determinate plants need little pruning.

Episode 3: How to Train Tomato Plants

This year, the weather has been hot and dry, and Sarah’s tomato patch is a jumble of thriving plants. A combination of selective pruning and tying will restore order to the patch. Panty hose makes good tie material because it stretches. A figure-eight loop wrapped loosely around the stake and tied in a knot can be used to support stems as well as branches with fruit. (You can use strips of other fabric as well.) If you see brown spots forming on the fruit, they might be blossom end rot, a sign of inconsistent watering.

Episode 4: How to Harvest Tomatoes

It isn’t hard to harvest tomatoes, but the tricky part is determining when they are at peak ripeness. Danielle shows Sarah three things to check for: color, smell, and “squishability.” Red, yellow, and orange tomatoes should be bright red, yellow, and orange, respectively; pink-fruited varieties should be a dusty rose color. Green varieties such as Green Zebra should be mostly green, with just a little yellow. Black tomatoes such as Black Krim should have a dusky purple color. Next, check aroma. The tomato should smell like a ripe tomato. As for squishability, pressing a ripe fruit with your finger should make an indentation that springs back. If the fruit is hard, let it ripen a while longer. If the indentation stays, the fruit is overripe.

As fruit ripens, the bottom leaves of the plants may turn yellow and brown. That’s normal; no need to worry.

Episode 5: How to Preserve Tomatoes: Fresh Tomato Purée

Traditionally, canning tomato sauce is a lengthy affair, but you can speed matters considerably by making and canning a fresh tomato puree, which later on can be transformed into sauce, soup, or even ketchup. Wash, core, and chop 8 pounds of paste tomatoes cook them over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Next, puree them using a tomato press or a food mill; this removes the seed and the skins. Now boil some water and get your canning equipment ready. You’ll need 4 clean pint Mason jars and lids. Put the lids into the boiling water to soften the rubber flanges. Meanwhile, take the tomato purée and bring to a boil.

When all is ready put 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid into the bottom of each jar to prevent botulism and fill with purée, leaving 1 inch of head space. Stir with a rod to remove any air bubbles, wipe the rims, apply the flat lids and then the top bands that hold the lids in place. As the liquid cools, the lids will form a seal. Then put the jars into a rack, and process in boiling water for 40 minutes. Let them cool in the pot for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack or towel and let cool for at least 8 hours. Properly sealed jars of tomato purée will keep up to a year in the pantry.

Recipe: Heirloom Tomato Napoleon with Parmesan Crisps

Homegrown tomatoes are a treat however you serve them, but for an impressive company-worthy dish, try a tomato napoleon, It’s not a pastry, but a sandwich that alternates layers of sliced tomatoes with homemade Parmesan cheese crisps, all served on a bed of greens.

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