Do you get frustrated because tomatoes are supposed to be one of the easiest plants to grow, but yours are less than fabulous come harvest season!? Oh man, do I know the pain! I experimented with so many tips and tricks trying to grow these babes, and for years failed miserably. I finally figured out what the secret tricks were, and I am happily sharing them with all of you! Follow these tips for growing fantastic tomatoes, then sit back and watch your tomatoes thrive all season long.
Quick, what is the first thing you think of growing in your vegetable garden!? Was it tomatoes? It was tomatoes, wasn’t it?! Well, for me it was. I didn’t even like eating raw tomatoes back in the day, but when I started gardening they were the first plants I put in the ground. Why would I plant them, you may ask? I wanted to make sure I could grow something and not kill it. Also, tomato plants are sold everywhere in the spring, so it made sense to me to try my hand at something simple first. With a wide range of varieties and the ease in which to grow them, it’s no wonder tomatoes are such a beloved crop!
- Wait until all dangers of frost have passed in your location. Tomatoes love and thrive in heat, so it is important to plant accordingly.
- Plant your tomatoes in an area of your garden or in containers where the soil can get hot, which means a bright sunny area. Ensure if possible that you plant seedlings in fast draining soil.
- When planting, I have found great success in pinching the lowest two sets of leaves off of the plant and burying the seedlings deep into the soil. Make sure to plant the seedling deeper than their current starter pot. Tomatoes are interesting as they can grow roots along their stems, which provide a sturdy plant. The more roots, the stronger the plant, the more tomatoes you harvest!
- Tomatoes are eager to grow towards the sun, as they are a vine. It is important to stake or cage the plants in order to support their continual growth.
- Water your tomato plants regularly and deeply, at least twice a week or more during hot spells. A common strategy is to give the plant at least an inch of water over the duration of a week. Do your best to not splash the leaves with water, as this can cause fungus or rot.
- Remove excess sucker leaves, such as the ones that grow in the joints of two branches. By thinning out these excess leaves, you allow more sun to reach the fruit which helps in the ripening process. Do not remove all leaves though, as they help in providing the tomatoes with nutrients and flavor.
- Feed your tomatoes every few weeks during the flowering season. Jobe’s Organics Vegetable and Tomato Fertilizer is what I use in my garden, purchasing options here
- Keep in mind when growing tomatoes that plants like to get large and/or tall before blossoms appear. If your plants are gorgeous but look bare for the first few months, keep caring for them as they will start bearing fruit soon.
- Like so many other fruits, leave tomatoes on the vine until their colors deepen and the desired color is consistent throughout the fruit. My girls eagerly pick the first tomatoes they see on the vine, so we tend to have a bunch of fried green tomatoes. However, it is best to wait as the sun and leaves will help in sweetening your tomatoes, giving them their desired richness and flavor.
- If you are nearing the end of your growing season and want to ensure your tomatoes on the vine ripen quickly before the rains start, clip off the top of the main stock/stem. This will encourage the plant to focus its energy to the fruit instead of further growth!
- Get out your garden baskets and start collecting your bounty!
I really think this is the perfect place to insert the Pulp Fiction tomato joke. I refer to this this joke as “Darcy’s tomato joke” because my fabulous friend Darcy is the first one who told it to me when I was in elementary school. I still giggle thinking of how hard she and I laughed after she shared it.
Here it is: “Three tomatoes are walkin’ down the street. Papa Tomato, Mama Tomato and Baby Tomato. Baby Tomato starts lagging behind, and Papa Tomato gets really angry. He goes back and squishes him and says: “Ketchup.”