8 Must Know Tips On How To Grow Tomatoes

Published: 26th May 2011
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Have you ever been disappointed with how your tomato plants produce? Whether you are growing your plants in a garden, raised beds or a planter box, a beginner or a seasoned gardener, these 8 tips will help you grow beautiful tomatoes.

* First, you want to decide on what type of tomato is best for your needs and growing space.

Some tomato varieties are determinate type plants, that may grow to about three feet in height and then stop. The tomatoes tend to set and ripen their fruit all at one time, making a large quantity available at one time. Varieties like Celebrity, Sunbeam or Mountain Spring are determinate.

Others, like a lot of the heirlooms, are indeterminate, and will continue to grow. Varieties like Beefsteak, Big Boy and Brandywine are indeterminate. Celebrity and Early Girl, are also indeterminate. However since they tend to mature earlier and die back before the end of the season, they are sometimes labeled semi-determinate.

You can get indeterminate type tomatoes to set fruit earlier by pinching off the tips of the main stems in early summer.

* Early preparation can give you tomatoes earlier. Tomato plants need at least seven hours of direct

sun or you will have few tomatoes. Since tomatoes like heat, if you cover the area where you are going to plant the tomatoes with a black or red plastic a couple of

weeks before you intend to plant, the extra warmth in the soil will produce earlier tomatoes.

* Planting the tomato plants at least 1.5 feet to 2 feet apart is recommended. Plants spaced too closely will produce less fruit and if the foliage stays wet you will have more disease problems.

Bury tomato plants all the way up to a few top leaves. Tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems. You can either

dig a deeper hole or simply dig a shallow tunnel and lay the plant sideways. It will straighten up and grow toward the sun.

* Feed your tomatoes with a balanced fertilizer, with similar amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Too much nitrogen will push the leaves, but less fruit. You can use compost every couple weeks instead.

For a plentiful crop, spray them with compost tea or seaweed extract about four times. For example, two weeks after planting, just after the first flowers appear, again when the fruit reaches the size of golf balls and finally, when the first tomato ripens.

* Pruning tomato plants is not really necessary. However, suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches won't bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant. Just pinch and remove suckers that develop. Other pruning will result in slightly fewer total fruit but the fruit will be slightly larger. You will likely get more but slightly smaller fruit from non-pruned plants. The choice is yours. However, it is important to note, that once the tomato plants are about 3' tall, you should remove the leaves from the bottom 1' of stem. These are usually the first leaves to develop

fungus problems.

* Water the plants regularly and deeply while plants are developing. If the soil around tomato plants dries out, calcium, a minerals needed by all

plants to grow, is absorbed by the plant's roots along with water. If water is limited, so is the calcium. The result is blossom-end rot, a brown, dry, leathery spot found on the bottom of fruit. Only water will prevent this from happening. You can use mulch to help conserve moisture after the ground has had a chance to warm up.

Once the fruit begins to ripen, you can water a little less to coax the plant into concentrating its sugars, but donít withhold water so much that the plants wilt and become stressed or they will drop their blossoms and possibly their fruit.* Tomato fruit does not need direct sunlight to ripen. Pruning the plant prior to putting on fruit is ok, but do not remove the foliage from a mature plant. Exposing the fruit to direct sun and can lead to sunscald, a yellowing of the side exposed to the sun.

* Don't put tomatoes in the refrigerator. Temperatures below 55F will destroy the fragile balance of sugars, acids and other flavor inducing compounds. Leave tomatoes at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.

* If you have tomatoes that are not ripe enough, put them in a brown paper bag.

Following these tips should give you a nice crop of fresh tomatoes to enjoy throughout the summer.

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