As we head into another glorious garden planting season, it is the perfect time to talk about planting tomatoes – and the simple secrets to get them off to a great start on planting day!
The fact is, when and how you plant tomatoes really does make a huge difference in how plants perform. And a strong start now sets the stage for a big summer harvest later.
Here is a look at 6 “best of the best tips” to get your tomatoes off to their best start ever:
6 Secrets To Success For Planting Tomatoes
#1 Harden Off Your Plants
Before planting your tomato plants outside, make sure they are ready for Mother Nature. Simply taking transplants outdoors on a warm day and planting is not enough.
Transplants need time to adjust to the fluctuations in temperature, wind and sun. Slowly acclimate your tomatoes to outdoor life by giving them time in a protected area. This process is known as hardening off.
As they adjust, give them more light and time outdoors to toughen them up for planting day. Home-grown transplants need a few weeks for this process, nursery transplants at least a few days. See : How & Why To Harden Off Transplants
#2 Don’t Plant Too Early
In addition to letting the plants adjust to the outdoors, it is important to let the soil adjust before planting. And that means letting it warm up for the growing season!
Before planting tomatoes, allow the soil temperature to be at least 60 degrees. Anything less, and plants will struggle to get off to a fast start.
It takes several days of 70 degree days along with moderate nights to allow the soil temperature to warm. The soil temperature can also be checked easily with a soil thermometer.
#3 Put Tomato Supports In First
Don’t wait until after you plant to put your stakes or supports in the ground. Instead, drive them in before planting.
Why? For one, it allows you to support plants early, even with a single tie. This keeps tender, young plants from getting damaged due to strong winds.
But more importantly, it keeps you from disturbing their tender roots later on. Driving in stakes or cages a few weeks after planting can easily injure the roots below.
In addition, heavy foot traffic while driving in supports compacts the soil around the roots. That can lead to stunted growth, and an inability for plants to absorb nutrients and water.
#4 Create A Deep Planting Hole
Tomatoes need a deep planting hole to develop strong, healthy roots. Use a post hole digger to create a planting hole at least 6 to 8″ in depth.
When planting, place transplants deep, at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the plant should go in the ground. This allows roots to develop from the root ball, and from the portion of stem that is buried.
Don’t worry if you are burying a few leaves on the plant in the process. This practice develops super strong plants that can handle heat and drought in style.
#5 Fill Your Planting Hole With Power
This is one of the biggest secrets to success of all! Don’t just dig a hole and plant – fill your planting hole with tomato growing power!
We add a few cups of compost, along with a quarter cup of worm castings to every planting hole. In addition, we crush up a few egg shells and add in a tablespoon or two of coffee grounds too.
The compost, worm castings and coffee grounds all provide long-term, slow release nutrients to plants. And the crushed egg shells help to provide calcium that helps prevent black rot. Product Link : Worm Castings
#6 Mulch Deep
Finally, mulch those tomato plants deep and with power! Mulching plants helps to conserve moisture, keep out competing weeds, and provide power to the plants too.
We place a 1 to 2″ thick layer of compost about 12″ around each plant. Next, we top it off with a 2 to 3″ layer of straw, shredded leaves or grass clippings.
The compost layer helps to soak in nutrients every time it rains or we water. And the top coating of mulch helps keep weeds out and moisture in.
There you have it – our secrets to planting tomatoes. Here is to getting your plants off to a great start, and to your best harvest ever. Happy Tomato Planting – Jim and Mary!
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