When it comes to the best way to plant tomatoes, there are 5 simple tips that can help to get your plants off to an amazing start. And even better, set the stage for an incredible harvest!
The fact is, when and how you plant tomatoes really does make a huge difference in how plants will perform later.
After all, when plants start strong and healthy, they are better equipped to fight off disease and pests. And, of course, produce more blooms, and more fruit.
We certainly love our tomatoes here on the farm. And over the past 11 years, we’ve learned a few planting secrets that have really helped our tomato plants produce heavy yields of delicious tomatoes.
Here is a look at 5 of our top tips for planting your tomatoes for the best chance of success.
5 Simple Tomato Planting Secrets – How To Best Plant Tomatoes
#1 Let The Soil Warm Before Planting
The number one mistake gardeners make with tomato plants is planting too early. Plants that go into the ground too soon are easily stunted by the cool soil and cool nights.
In fact, many times, via a light frost or freeze, they can be damaged for the entire season. That is why, more than anything else, allow the soil to warm before planting!
Soil should be at a minimum of 60 to 65 degrees (F) before planting. And to warm up, that can take several days of temperatures in the mid to high 70’s, and nights that only drop into the 50’s.
To test your soil’s temperature, use an inexpensive soil thermometer. If the soil is still below 60, hold off until it warms so that plants can hit the ground running.
Tomato plants that are transplanted in warmer soil adjust more rapidly, absorb nutrients better, and grow at a much faster rate.
If you live in a cooler climate, you might even try helping to warm the soil up by laying down black plastic a week or so before you pant. The plastic will absorb the suns rays and heat the soil. But whatever you do, let that soil warm up!
Allow Your Plants To Adjust To The Outdoors – How To Best Plant Tomatoes
As an extra note, also make sure your tomato plants are ready for Mother Nature. Simply taking transplants outdoors on a warm day and planting is not enough. Especially if you have grown them from seed indoors.
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. (See : How To Harden Off Vegetable Plants)
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. And if you purchase from a nursery, give those transplants at least a few days as well to adjust.
#2 Put Your Tomato Supports Up As You Plant – How To Best Plant Tomatoes
Tip number two is one that many do not think about until it’s too late. Don’t wait until after you plant to put your stakes or supports in the ground. Instead, put them in place on the day you plant.
Why? For one, it allows you to support plants early, even with a single tie. This gives tender, young plants support, and keeps them from getting damaged due to strong winds. This is especially important because smaller plants simply aren’t strong enough yet to withstand strong breezes and can easily snap.
But even more, waiting until later will disturb the tomatoes root system when you drive them in. Stakes and cages can injure roots that have been growing when placed in the ground weeks later.
And placing them in down the road also means unwanted foot traffic around the plant’s root area. That foot traffic compacts the soil and roots, which can hinder plant growth significantly.
In fact, always try to keep all foot traffic away from the direct growing zones around your plants. The less you trample around the root zone of your plants, the better they will grow and perform.
#3 Create A Deep Planting Hole – How To Best Plant Tomatoes
The deeper you plant your tomatoes, the better! Tomatoes need a deep planting hole to develop strong, healthy roots.
When planting, place transplants down so that 1/3 to 1/2 of the plant is in the ground. This allows roots to develop from the root ball, and from the portion of stem that is buried.
Listen In To Our Podcast On How To Grow The Best Tomatoes On The Block!
Don’t be afraid if you are burying the lower set of leaves on plants. All of those little tiny hairs on the stems of plants will grow into roots underneath the soil.
And all of those roots will serve in bringing in moisture and nutrients to the plant as it grows. It is a simple formula for success. The more roots, the more nutrition the plant will receive over the course of its life.
And here is an extra planting tip we love – use a post hole digger to make your holes! It is fast, easy on the back, and creates a wide and deep hole perfect for planting. We dig down to a depth of about 8 to 10 inches for each plant.
#4 Fill Your Planting Hole With Power! – How To Best Plant Tomatoes
Now that you have that perfect planting hole, it’s time to fill it with power!
We fill our planting holes back in with an equal mixture of compost and garden soil along with a few extra powerful organic ingredients added in. And it simply works magic on our plants!
In addition to the soil and compost, we crush a few eggs shells, and add in a few tablespoons of spent coffee grounds and worm castings.
The eggs shells break down and add calcium to the soil, helping prevent black rot and blossom rot. The coffee grounds and worm castings are powerful fertilizers, that release their nutrients back slowly to the plants as they grow.
It is a mixture our tomatoes thrive on! And I have to say, the worm castings are truly the star ingredient that makes a difference.
It always amazes us each year to see the difference in the trial plants we plant with and without castings. Without fail, the plants with castings take off far faster, and always are the first to produce.
#5 Mulch Deep – How To Best Plant Tomatoes
Mulch is the final key, and a big one! It not only keeps out competing weeds, but provides insulation to the tomato plant’s root zone. That helps keep the soil temperature and moisture levels regulated on both cool evenings and hot days.
But here is a little secret that can pay big dividends, you can also use mulch to provide a slow release of power to your plants. And to do that, we use a double-mulch approach.
First, we place a 1 to 2″ thick layer of compost in a 10 to 12 inch circumference around each plant. Then we finish by placing a 3 to 4 inch layer of straw, grass clippings or shredded leaves (whatever we have on hand) to finish the mulching.
The compost provides power down into the soil every time it rains or we water. The nutrients slowly leach down to the roots, and give the tomato plants extra energy. Meanwhile. the top layer of mulch insulates the soil and prevents competing weeds.
It is a perfect combination that works wonders for your tomato plants. Here is to getting your tomato plants off to a great start, and to your best harvest ever this summer! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
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