Tips & Tricks
Tomato Gardening Tips
1. Keep out of the garden when the soil is wet to avoid compacting the soil.
2. When planting tomatoes, work the soil well to encourage plants to send down a good root system.
3. As plants approach 3-feet tall, remove many of the leaves from the bottom 1-foot of the stem. These leaves receive very little sunlight and are often the first to develop fungal problems.
4. For best flavor, allow tomatoes to develop on the plant to their full color before picking.
5. A layer of organic mulch (compost, leaves, grass clippings) will help deter weeds and keep moisture levels constant. Add mulches after soil has had a chance to warm up.
6. On determinate plants, let suckers grow. On indeterminates, decide how many “main” stems you want, and pinch off all suckers after you’ve got that number on each plant. For larger (but fewer) fruit, limit the number of stems.
7. Weekly applications of compost tea may ward off many fungal diseases.
8. Prevent blossom end rot by keeping the soil evenly moist and by adding a tablespoon of Epsom salts to the hole at planting time. Calcium will also help prevent this problem.
9. Thin strips of cloth make great ties for tomato plants. Begin attaching plants to stakes when the stem is about a foot tall.
10. In cold climates use row covers or Wall O’ Waters to protect tomato transplants from frost and improve yield.
11. Start seedlings indoors 6-7 weeks before you plant outside. Transplant outdoors when the soil has warmed and there is no longer danger of frost.
12. Tomatoes love plenty of sun. Plant in the sunniest location and they will produce faster and be more prolific.
13. Space tomato plants far enough apart (1-1/2 – 2 feet) to allow for plenty of sun and promote good air circulation.
14. To develop strong stems, place a fan over tomato seedlings for up to 10 minutes a day, at least twice a day. This will also improve air circulation and keep many fungal diseases at bay.
15. Transplant tomatoes during ideal conditions – late afternoon, cloudy days, or shortly after a rain.
16. Plant tomatoes on their side (horizontally in a trench) or up to their first set of leaves in a deep hole. Roots will develop all along the underground stem to help plants suck up moisture.
17. Tomatoes grown in containers will dry out faster than in the garden. Keep potting soil moist, but not soggy.
18. Tomato varieties, such as Oregon Spring, Early Girl, and Stupice, are bred to develop fruit early and are perennial favorites.
19. To encourage an earlier harvest (and greater production), warm the soil a couple of weeks prior to planting by covering it with black or red plastic.
20. Seedlings require plenty of light. Use a grow light (up to 18 hours per day) or keep them in an area that receives plenty of direct sunlight.
21. If seedlings become tall and weak (leggy) they need more light. To remedy, lower grow lights to two inches above plants and cool grow room temperature to around 65 degrees F.
22. When purchasing tomato plants for your garden, look for healthy green plants with thick stems and no tomatoes or flowers.
23. To reduce insect and disease problems, rotate tomato plants so that they are grown only once in the same spot every three years.
24. If a heavy frost is expected, harvest all tomatoes, including green ones, which will eventually ripen while kept in storage.
25. Like most garden plants, tomatoes prefer rich, fast-draining soil that has been amended with plenty of organic compost or well-aged animal manure.