If you are wanting to grow an amazingly huge crop of tomatoes this year – today’s in-depth article covering our 6 biggest secrets to successfully grow tomato plants is the perfect place to start!
The tomato is the most-prized vegetable we grow on our little farm. In fact, it dominates nearly a quarter of our entire garden space every year. If that wasn’t enough, we grow even more in our raised bucket planters on our back patio garden areas as well.
Plain and simple, the more tomatoes we can harvest, the better! We love eating them fresh – whether it be in salads, or topping off a sandwich or hamburger with the perfect heirloom tomato slice. Perhaps our favorite fresh-eating method is to pair them with a bit of homemade mozzarella cheese and homegrown basil for a delicious Caprese appetizer!
The list can go on and on. Tomatoes also happen to be a major ingredient in our favorite homemade salsa recipe, pico de gallo, pizza sauce, pasta sauce, homemade tomato soup and more. The point being, we need to grow a lot of tomatoes – because we use a lot of tomatoes!
One thing is for sure, we’ve certainly learned quite a few tips and tricks over the years for getting the biggest possible harvest from our crop. With that in mind, here is a look at 6 of our biggest tomato growing secrets of all – which hopefully can help you grow your best crop of tomatoes ever this year!
6 Simple Secrets To Grow A Huge Crop Of Tomatoes
1) Grow In A New Space Each Year!
Whether you grow tomatoes in a garden, a raised bed or in containers, planting in fresh soil is a HUGE key to success! If you plant your tomatoes in the exact same soil you grew them in last year, you are instantly putting your plants at risk.
Tomatoes are extremely susceptible to disease. Especially diseases which can stem from the soil. Case in point, tomato blight, which is caused by spores in the ground. Unfortunately, the more you grow your tomato plants in the same soil, the easier it is for those spores to infect your plants.
Tomatoes are also heavy feeders from the soil. They need calcium, phosphorous, nitrogen, potassium and a slew of other micro nutrients to grow strong and produce. And if you keep growing in the same soil, those nutrients are most likely long gone within a year or two.
That is exactly why rotating your tomatoes to a new space each season is a must. With fresh soil, you have a fresh supply of nutrients. You also greatly reduce the risk of disease as well. (See: How To Stop Tomato Blight!)
As a good rule of thumb, tomato plants should never grow in the same location for at least 3 years. And if you grow in pots or containers, you need to start with fresh soil every single year. Even the best potting soil can lose its vitality in a single growing season!
2) Plant Your Tomatoes Deep & With Power – 6 Secrets To Grow A Huge Crop Of Tomatoes!
One of the biggest mistakes tomato growers make is to not plant their tomatoes deep enough. The practice of deep planting accomplishes two key positives for tomato plants.
For one, it helps protect them for the long, hot growing season ahead. A deep root structure dries out less quickly. It also provides more support for plants to handle wind, heavy rains and fierce summer storms.
In addition to anchoring your tomato plants, planting the main stem deep allows for additional roots to grow from the main stem. When placed in soil, all of those tiny hairs on the main stem grow to become underground roots.
The larger your tomato plant’s root system becomes, the more growth and production you will have from your plant above the soil. Roots are vital in helping the plant absorb nutrients and water to help it grow and thrive. More roots equal bigger and better tomatoes!
So how deep should you plant? We like to plant our tomato transplants to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. To do so, that means we bury our plants deep enough that it usually covers the first few sets of leaves. This does not hurt the plant in the least. It only serves to help additional roots grow out from main stem buried under the soil.
Planting Tomatoes Deep With Power!
In addition to planting deep, you also need to fill that deep hole with power. In fact, one of the biggest secrets of all to tomato growing success is to feed your plants right when you plant them. And it’s easy to do!
To plant, we start by using a post hole digger to create the perfect planting hole. It makes a six inch wide, eight to ten inch deep hole in short order. And it does so without having to bend over and put strain on your back!
Once the hole is ready, it’s time to fill it with energy! As we plant each transplant, we fill the hole back in with a mix of soil, a few handfuls of compost, three to four pulverized egg shells, a couple tablespoons of coffee grounds and a half cup of worm castings.
The Power Of Compost, Coffee Grounds, Egg Shells & Worm Castings
The compost, coffee grounds and worm castings provide amazing nutrients. And best of all, they release power back slowly as the plants grow. If you have not used worm castings in your planting holes – you will be amazed at just what they can do for your plants! Affiliate Link : Wiggle Worm Worm Castings
The pulverized eggs shells are important as well. They give a boost of calcium as they break down into the soil. And is calcium ever important to tomatoes!
Blossom-end rot (black rot) is a direct result of plants not taking in enough calcium. Calcium also plays a huge role in the early development of the cell structure and stems of a tomato plant – both of which are key to developing strong, sturdy and productive plants.
3) Put Your Tomato Supports In On Planting Day – 6 Secrets To Grow A Huge Crop Of Tomatoes!
When it comes to growing great tomatoes, supporting your crop is vital to keep it healthy. Unsupported vines are easily damaged in storms or by foot traffic. Plants are also more susceptible to disease and pests when allowed to sprawl on the ground.
When unsupported, all of that tangled mess prevents good air circulation and sunlight from hitting plants too. Both of which are big factors in helping tomatoes to ripen at a faster pace.
Whether you use cages, stakes or trellises like our DIY stake-a-cage, plants need support. But whatever you do, don’t wait until later to put your tomato supports in – put them in right as you plant! See : The Best DIY Way To Support Your Tomato Plants!
Not only is putting supports up early easier for the gardener, but it keeps you from trampling the soil and roots around your tomato plants as they grow. That trampling not only compresses roots and stops them from growing, but staking later can easily damage roots as posts are driven in near plants.
4) Mulch Your Tomato Plants On Planting Day – 6 Secrets To Grow A Huge Crop Of Tomatoes!
There is no other way to say it – mulching your tomato plants is a huge key to success. So much so that it is a must do! Mulch plays a major role in the health and production level of tomato plants – and that is exactly why you want to mulch your plants as soon as you plant them.
Mulching aids in regulating soil temperature. It also helps keep soil and nutrients from eroding away during strong rains. But most importantly, it keeps competing weeds out of the picture. Weeds that rob plants of the vital nutrients they need to grow strong.
We double-mulch our plants. First, we place a one to two inch thick layer of compost six to eight inches in diameter around each plant. We then sprinkle on a quarter cup of worm castings on top of the compost ring. Together, they create a slow-release fertilizing circle around each stalk. Every time it rains or you water, those nutrients soak to the roots below.
Finally, we finish with a four to six inch thick layer of straw, grass clippings or shredded leaves to cover the castings and compost. That thick layer protects plants from stress, and more importantly, keeps you from constantly having to weed your plants.
5) Keep Foot Traffic Off Of The Root Zone Areas Of Plants – 6 Secrets To Grow A Huge Crop Of Tomatoes!
Another big mistake gardeners make once they plant their tomatoes is walking and working too close to their plants. Once your tomato plants are planted, the more you can stay off the ground around your plants, the better they will grow.
Listen In Below To Our Podcast On How To Fertilize Your Tomatoes For Big Success!
As tomatoes grow in the garden, it is vital to keep heavy foot traffic away from the soil right around plants. Stepping on and around a plant’s root zone compacts the soil. This can play a huge role in keeping roots from developing to maximum capacity.
When roots are smashed down and compressed, it inhibits the flow of nutrients to your tomato plants. You would be amazed at how many fewer roots grow underneath the soil when they are packed down by foot traffic.
This is just one more reason we love the no-till method of a Raised Row garden. By mulching deep and keeping foot traffic and tillers out of the growing space, roots can develop freely. Not only is it less work, it helps create more productive plants! See: How To Turn Your Garden Into A Raised Row Garden
6) Prune Plants Early & Often – 6 Secrets To Grow A Huge Crop Of Tomatoes!
Last but not least – don’t be afraid to prune your plants as they grow! Pruning is vital to keep plants healthy. It also helps allow air and light in to help with both bloom and fruit production.
As your tomato plants grow, prune the bottom limbs off of each plant. At minimum, clear eight to ten inches away from the bottom as your tomato plants grow. Prune even more if the plants are a large variety. We prune all of our heirlooms a full twelve to sixteen inches off the ground by the time they are fully mature.
Pruning keeps air flowing through the interior of plants, it also makes it harder for garden bugs and pests to find their way onto plants. Even better, pruning up makes it easier to water too! As your plant grow, don’t be afraid to prune out a few middle branches as well. This will open the interior of the plant up and allow valuable light and air in. See : How To Prune Tomato Plants
Here is to growing a huge crop of tomato plants this year – Happy Gardening! Jim and Mary.
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