5 tips to grow great tomatoes

Tomatoes are a big part of our garden – and over the years, through both the glory of success – and the agony of failure – we’ve learned a lot of helpful hints – Here are our top 5:

Our little garden planting secret tool – the post hole digger

1.  Use the post hole digger trick:

We plant our entire garden with a post hole digger.  We lay out the spacing of all plants – and then dig every one of our holes with the it.  This is great for two reasons – it creates a much wider and deeper hole for the plants (easily getting to a depth of 8 to 12″) – and it’s easy on the back!  We then fill the bottom of the hole with a few inches of chopped straw and a few cups of great compost.  We will then mix in the dirt we removed from the hole with the compost and drop in the plant.  It gives the new plant plenty of loose, fertile soil to spread it’s roots and the straw at the bottom helps to hold moisture around the roots.

A couple of handfuls of compost or even potting soil are a great mulch for plants.

2.  Mulch your tomatoes:

Tomatoes thrive on good moist soil – and don’t like to become dried out.

Use a couple of cups of compost or potting soil around the base of the plants as a mulch to keep the plants from drying out.  The  nutrients from the compost and potting soil leach through to the plant each and every time you  water – and it helps retain the water when you do.

We make slight well out of the compost mulch to help funnel the water directly to the plant- this way the water has a chance to soak down through and not run off.

Remove the spray tip from a sprayer and use to water your plants easily at the soil level.

3. Practice Good water habits:

Tomatoes need water!

Especially early on when they are becoming established.  Water often (at least every other day), especially during hot days when they are young.  Also make sure to water early in the day or in the evening, and try to water the roots – not the foliage –  so the water on the leaves doesn’t burn the plants from the sun.

We use a 2 gallon sprayer – remove the spraying attachment – and water directly to the plant’s base to conserve water and not touch the leaves.

As a general rule of thumb – tomatoes need at least 1″ of water a week.  When you do water – water deep enough that the roots are thoroughly soaked – allowing them to grow deeper in the soil and not stay near the surface where they will dry out quicker.

A mulch of compost or potting soil around the plants allows the water to hold near the plant, slowly sink in, and keeps the roots from drying out.

4. Fertilize your plants:

There are plenty of organic and natural fertilizers available to use safely on your plants.  You can even make a compost tea from soaking water in fresh compost.  But tomatoes can really benefit from a boost or two of fertilizer early on in their growth.  Not too much though – too much fertilizer can result in a whole lot of leaf growth – and very few tomatoes.

Give your tomatoes good support – it helps keep them disease free and helps them to ripen more better on the vine.

5.  Support them:

No – this isn’t about providing a room for them after college 🙂  Tomatoes and their vines need great support – so whether you use a cage or a stake – keep them tied up and off the ground – it keeps the air flowing through the plants – which keeps black rot and other diseases at bay, and also helps to promote growth and ripen the fruit quicker.

So good luck with your garden and your tomatoes this year -and we hope that these tips help your tomatoes reach new heights! Let us know if you have any great tips or hints that you have found to work in your garden! You can see our post on building your own inexpensive stake a cage supports here :   Make Your Own Tomato Supports

– Mary and Jim

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