1. Plant in the sun
Tomatoes require at least six hours of sunlight per day in order to thrive. Eight hours is even better.
2. Plant them deep
Generally, we don’t recommend this for most plantings, but for tomatoes it works well to plant your tomato seedlings a little bit deeper than the soil level that comes in the pot (even up an inch or two). This will allow the plant to form roots all along the stem, and with more roots comes a healthier plant.
3. Plant in well-tilled and well-drained soil.
Know your type: Determinate or Indeterminate? Make sure to take note of the type of tomato plant that you are planting (found on the tag).
Determinate tomatoes grow as a bush and ripen all at one time while indeterminate tomatoes will grow on a vine and will continually grow and produce tomatoes until late summer or the first frost. Indeterminate tomatoes require more support structures and space. When planting indeterminate types create the stakes and support structures early. This will help to avoid damaging the roots and stems later on. When planting determinate types, plant different batches of tomatoes two to three weeks apart so that your harvest doesn’t all come at one time.
For more information on the different kinds of types of tomatoes, check our blog post at http://www.zocalo.ca/tomatoes-the-skinny/.
4. Remove the bottom leaves
When your (indeterminate) tomato plant reaches about 3 feet tall, remove the leaves from the bottom 8 inches of the plant. This will prevent fungus problems as the bottom leaves get the least airflow and sun. As they’re also closest to the ground, they are the most susceptible to splashes from soil-born pathogens.
5. Prune (if indeterminate)
Suckers will develop along the stem and in the crotch between branches. If the tomato is an indeterminate type these, should be removed to save energy for the rest of the plant. However, if the tomato is a determinate, removing the suckers will severely reduce crop production. Read that tag!
6. Water Water Water
Water your developing plants thoroughly and regularly (about once every four days to once a week). Be sure to water directly on the soil, not on the leaves. If the plant looks wilted for the majority of the day, give it another watering. When fruits begin to ripen, you can water a bit less. With a bit less water, the plant will concentrate its sugars for a better tasting fruit. Don’t water too little though or they will drop their blossoms and possibly the fruit. If you aren’t sure, do the “finger test”. Poke your finger into the soil up to your first knuckle, if it is moist, do not water. If it is dry, water.
Mulch the soil in your garden using clean straw or wood chips. This will help retain the moisture in the soil, reduce splashback onto the leaves, keep the soil cool (reducing temperature fluctuations reduces plant stress), and will conserve water. Every little bit helps. Be sure not to use hay for mulch. It’s often full of weed seeds. Some easy DIY alternatives to straw or wood chips are chopped leaves (run them over with a mower), grass clippings or pine needles.
8. Enjoy the fruits of your labour!
The benefits of gardening are more than just watching a young seedling grow to a fully ripened plant. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and vitamin K. They also have good amounts of copper, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B6, folate, niacin, vitamin E, and phosphorus. They do your body good! Oh, and there’s nothing like a ripe tomato in August. Enjoy.