Tomatoes are one of the most common vegetables in home gardens. They are great on a sandwich or eaten like an apple. You can can them and use them in all different recipes. My favorite is a fried green tomato. Tomato growing is rewarding and delicious.
Tomatoes are unique in that there are more tomato varieties out there than other garden plants. That’s because of the multitude of different ways that tomatoes can be used. So when you’re planting tomatoes, start with the end goal in mind. Use a variety that works well for what you want to do with it. Also, take a look at the disease resistance that tomato has in it. This can vary a lot by variety. Disease resistance will give you a serious leg up and give you a lot fewer headaches as the season goes on.
You’ll want to plant in an area that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight and has a soil pH of 6.2-6.8. Tomatoes can grow roots all along their stem. So when planting transplants plant them down to the first set of leaves. Plant them 2 feet apart in row, and set rows 4-6 feet apart. Firm up the soil around the transplants to push out any air pockets. After transplanting put 2 tablespoons of 5-10-10 fertilizer around each plant.
Most plants will need to be staked. You can buy cages to stake the plants. Alternatively, you can use wooden stakes that are 5-6 feet long. Drive a stake into the ground between every other plant about 1 foot deep. You can take twine or strips of cloth and weave these around the stakes to support the plants. As the plants grow higher, you can add more levels of twine.
Apply 1.5 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet prior to planting. Once tomatoes start forming on the vine and are the size of a quarter apply 1 pound of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet. Repeat that application every 3-4 weeks until harvest is finished.
Tomatoes need about 1-2 inches of water per week. If we don’t get enough rain, you can supply the rest. When watering plants it’s better to give 1 or 2 heavy soakings, than multiple light sprinkles.
There are many insects that can cause problems for tomatoes. Insecticidal soap does a pretty good job for most soft-bodied insects. Bt is works well for caterpillars and insects that feed on the plants. Scout your garden regularly so that you quickly find new pests. Pests are much easier to control in small numbers and when they aren’t full-grown.
Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency. Maintaining a good pH, keeping plants well watered, and having enough calcium in the soil will prevent blossom end rot. Foliar sprays to give calcium are only short-term fixes. Healthy soil and good water practices will eliminate this problem.
Tomatoes are best if they fully ripen on the vine. However, if you pick them before they are fully ripe you can set them out in a room that’s around 70 degrees. I like to use the kitchen windowsill.
If you have questions about growing tomatoes contact your County Extension Office or email me at [email protected].