It’s never too late for tomato growing tips! Hopefully, your tomatoes are growing tall and your tomatoes are ripening. If you want to ensure the best ever harvest, read these helpful eleven tomato growing tips!
Tomato Growing Tips for Your Best Harvest Yet
Gardeners love to grow tomatoes in the vegetable garden. The flavor of fresh homegrown tomatoes cannot be beat! Tomatoes can be a great plant for growing in your garden because they grow well with so many other plants and can even thrive in large pots. There are a few tips and tricks you can use to get more tomatoes from your garden.
Know when to plant tomatoes
As tempting as it can be to get your tomatoes seedlings in the ground as soon as you can, don’t be in a big hurry to plant tomatoes. They need warm garden soil temperatures and nighttime air temperatures of at least 55 degrees before you plant them.
Make sure to plant them in a location that gets full sun. Encourage root growth by planting them in as deep a hole as possible. Head here for more tomato planting tips.
Covering your ground with black plastic in the fall can help warm the soil in early spring. However, before you plant your tomatoes, you must check the long range weather forecast to make sure you are you of frost danger. Tomatoes are not frost tolerant plants. Not only will the black plastic warm the soil, it will also keep weeds down and helps me avoid tilling! I highly recommend covering your garden in the fall.
Feed your tomato plants
At the start of the season, mix plenty of compost or fertilizer directly into the soil where you will plant your tomatoes to get them to get off to a great head start. Then, fertilize your tomato plants again fruit starts to set on, and them keep feeding them every one to two weeks throughout the growing season. I use my little garden sprayer and spray Organic Plant Magic fertilizer once a month or so.
Preventing blossom-end rot
Tomatoes need calcium to prevent blossom end rot. Fast acting ground limestone will give the soil a major calcium boost. Blossom end rot is most common during wet springs that turn into dry summers. In Eastern Iowa we definitely started out wet and it has been drying since then.
If you’re experiencing blossom end rot, lime can help! We love First Saturday Lime – check it out here. It can also help kill bad pests like tomato horn worms too! Simply sprinkle lime around the base of your tomato plant and carefully work into the soil.
You might want to test your soil before applying FSL to make sure it doesn’t alter the pH too much. A healthy soil has s pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Use this lime calculator to see how much lime you will need to add based on the current pH level of your soil.
Why are the leaves turning yellow?
If the leaves on your tomato plants are turning yellow, they probably need more magnesium. An easy way to get them magnesium is to use epsom salts. Feed them one tablespoon of epsom salts per foot of height, twice a month. If your tomato plants are 4 feet tall, give them 4 tablespoons of epsom salts twice a month. Track when you do this in your garden journal so you don’t forget!
Stake or cage your plants
Another tomato growing tip is to provide support to your tomatoes. You’ll need some way to help your tomatoes stay upright, unless you want a sprawling tomato jungle. We’ve staked and caged our plants and find it to be a personal choice. Even though determinate tomatoes (also called bush tomatoes) only reach a certain hight and then stop growing, they still need support.
Indeterminate tomatoes definitely need support as they continue growing throughout the growing season. You’ll want to choose something extra tall for these tomatoes as I’ve had them reach over 6’ tall before!
There are lots of ways to stake tomatoes. Some favorite tomato staking methods include the Florida weave, tomato baskets, tying to hog panels or fence posts.
Proper watering is key
Tomatoes need plenty of water, one to two inches of water per week. Rain water is the best option, but that’s not always possible. Tomatoes prefer to be watered several times a week, instead of getting all of there watering quickly once a week.
Tomatoes like to be watered slowly and watered deeply. One way to do this is to punch wholes in a water bottle or bucket and allow it to slowing drip down on the ground around tomatoes.
Using soaker hoses is great way to slowly water tomatoes. Delivering the water directly to the plant is more efficient than using a sprinkler.
If at all possible, avoid using a sprinkler. Sprinklers inefficient ways to deliver water to tomato plants putting more water on the leaves than on the roost. Wet leaves can invite disease.
Don’t forget to mulch!
Mulching will help keep the weeds down and will also help keep the moisture in. Grass clippings, straw, and wood chips all make good mulch for your tomatoes. If you’d like to find sources of free mulch, this post will help.
You’d might not think it, but pruning tomatoes can be a contentious subject. Some people think heavily pruning tomato plants is the only way to go and recommend removing suckers and any branches that don’t contain flowers.
Other people say pruning tomatoes is not necessary at all. My own father prefers to grow tomatoes in huge, homemade tomato cages like the these. I fall in the no pruning camp – but I’m experimenting this year with both methods in my garden. I’ll get back to you with the results.
Pinch off early flowers
To help get more tomatoes from your garden pinch off the early flowers from your tomato plants. This helps them establish a strong root system and plenty of strong stalks before they begin to produce. They’ll need a large root base to find water when it’s hot and dry.
Companion plants for tomatoes
For a larger tomato crop without issues like blossom end rot invite beneficial bugs and pollinators into your garden by planting flowers that attract them and building a bug house to encourage them to stick around. If you do not see many pollinating insects in your garden you can opt to use a hand pollinator or even use a small paintbrush to ensure your tomatoes are fully pollinated.
Some popular tomato companion plants to encourage beneficial bugs include:
- Bee balm
Watch for pests
The biggest tomato pest is the tomato horn worm. These huge, scary looking caterpillars munch on leaves and can quickly eat all the leaves off the entire plant.
You should suspect horn worms if you notice tomato plants left leafless. You might also notice the huge horn worm poop as well. As soon as you see evidence of horn worms, inspect the plant until you find the culprit. To get rid of them, remove them from the plant by cutting them in half, cutting of the branch they are on, get them off with a stick, or pluck them off with a stick if you are really brave.
I used to pay your kids to get them off because they loved them. Not so much anymore. My chickens love to eat them, so I put them in the chicken bowl and watch them disappear.
Hopefully these tomato growing tips will help you grow the most beautiful tomatoes yet! Do you have a tip I didn’t mention?