There is just about nothing else in life that feels as good as plucking a plump and juicy tomato off of the vine in your back yard. The feeling of bringing amazing, healthy, and organic food into existence is pretty heady — but it definitely isn’t always easy! Tomatoes in particular give plenty of home gardeners issues and they are problematic enough that we have decided to jump in and try to help out. We decided to compile 12 rock solid tips for growing juicy, red, delicious tomatoes right in your own backyard! Keep on reading and get ready to eat as many tomatoes as you can handle.
Understand the concept of garden spacing.
You could probably spend plenty of time on online classes in order to learning the art of growing outdoor tomatoes, so we’ll stick to giving you some core conceptual tips. First off you really need to spend time learning the concept of garden spacing. Tomatoes are big plants and they send their roots outward in order to create enough room to grow correctly. In order to get the best tomatoes possible you need to space your plants around 48 inches apart. If you get the plants any closer than that you will end up with a whole host of issues: decreased disease tolerance, smaller plants, and smaller fruit production. Don’t let yoru wait go to waste, space your plants properly!
Plant your tomato as deeply as possible.
If you buy your tomato starters from local home businesses then you have an opportunity to get them straight into the ground with a head start. The best trick we can give you when planting your seedlings, not seeds, is to plant them as deeply as possible. You want to steep your tomato starter in the dirt as far down on the stock of the plant as you can so long as you don’t allow any leaves to go underneath the dirt. This gives your plant more room to develop its root system which leads to better moisture wicking and a stronger overall plant. Your tomato will be able to withstand more wind, less water, and more bending all without causing any sort of issue. This is a no frills tip that can pay off with large and juicy tomatoes!
Fend off cutworms with cardboard.
Every gardener knows how pests can quickly turn your joy to dismay. Finding cutworms on your tomato plant is completely disheartening and a legitimate cause for concern as pests do more damage than you ever could. To avoid getting these untimely pests in your tomato plants you have to start early, or as early as possible. You can wrap the step of your tomato plant with a bit of cardboard, or wax paper if that’s on hand. Make sure that the cardboard or wax paper stays secured around the plant by adding a stapler or bit of twine. This material will keep worms off of your plant and it will eventually rot away, leaving you with a healthier tomato as a result.
Keep pruning your tomato leaves to prevent disease.
Once you’ve seen your tomato plant firmly establish itself with a thick stalk and deep root system it is time to begin pruning. While pruning sounds a bit counter intuitive it can make a world of difference for your plant. As your tomato grows the upper leaves will block the sun from reaching the lowest leaves, causing them to die. Cut off these leaves ahead of time so that your tomato doesn’t waste time and energy trying to keep them alive in a losing effort. Pay attention as your tomato grows so you can keep track of which leaves are getting killed by lack of sun.
Add fertilizer pellets into your soil when transplanting.
Tomatoes are a high nutrient feeding plant and this means that your soil has to be right on in terms of what it has on hand to provide. You can make sure that your soil doesn’t go bankrupt by adding slow time release fertilizer to your soil when you transplant. Over time this slow release fertilizer will begin to feed your tomatoes, keeping them healthy and ready to go all the way through to harvest. Your local hardware or garden shop should have a variety of different fertilizers on hand for you to pick from.
Use mulch to feed your tomato plants.
Tomato plants feed heavy and that means they need to stay well nourished with water. By adding mulch around the base of your tomato plants you will create an environment that allows your plants to conserve water, keeping the soil healthy and the root system strong. Mulching also has the great positive effect of staving off diseases that come by way of soil. Mulching is also just a really great thing to do in general as it allows you to go just a little bit more green in your day to day life. There are plenty of mulching guides on the internet to work through or else your local gardening shop should be able to get you set up.
Maintain a watering schedule to prevent rot.
Tomatoes are the divas of the plant world and as such you need to treat them right. Feed your tomato plants on a consistent basis, twice a week to start, and watch how thoroughly you feed them. You want to feed your plants in the morning so that they can dry off before it gets colder at night. If you over or under feed then you could end up with the nightmare of all tomato growers: blossom end rot. Keep a close eye on your plants soil and be attentive to its needs.
Keep your plant steady with a tomato cage.
There are all sorts of devices out there that promise to help you grow great tomatoes and our favorite is the tomato cage. We’ve stressed the fact that tomatoes grow quite large and adding a cage will help keep the plant stable as it grows upward. Your tomato plant can grow too big for its root systems to stay stable which will cause them to fall over. Avoid that issue with a well designed tomato cage which you can buy from just about anywhere, so long as it is the right season.
Keep slugs away with copper.
Fighting pests is pretty much the most frustrating thing about gardening and slugs are right at the top of the list as primary instigators. Keep slugs out of your garden and avoid using chemicals by instead installing copper strips around your soil bed. The copper creates a reaction in the soil that keeps slugs and snails at bay, keeping your tomato plants safe as a result. The copper isn’t detrimental to your plants and you won’t have to use chemical laden pesticides in order to get the job done — we call that a ‘win-win’.
Use epsom salt to keep your plants healthy.
If you notice a slight or dramatic yellowing to the leaves of your tomato plants then you might be dealing with a nutrient deficiency. Did you know that you can add epsom salt directly to your soil in order to help treat these problems? It’s true! Add a teaspoon to a gallon of water, roughly once a month, and water your plants with the mixture. This will add magnesium and sulfate to your soil bed, giving your plants a boost of helpful nutrients to help them get back to going green.
Add garlic to your garden to improve your tomatoes taste.
There is something to be said for the science of mixing and matching plants in your garden bed. One particularly great pair of garden mates are garlic bulbs and tomato plants. The garlic helps to reduce the appearance of fungi near your tomatoes and the two share enough soil that they start to influence one another. Garlic will actually improve the taste of your tomatoes if they are planted beside one another.
Don’t use the same spot for your tomatoes every single year.
If you plan to grow tomatoes every single year then you might want to rotate the soil positions that you grow them in. After several cycles the soil you are working with will start to become empty of nutrients. Keep a rotation every year to keep the soil healthy and your plants healthier.