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Grow-How

Growing Tomatoes Successfully

When and How Do I Transplant My Tomato Plants?

Plant when night temps will stay above 55 degrees. Tomatoes can go as low as 50, but any 40s is detrimental.

Plant in the evening, or on a cloudy day. Pick a spot that receives lots of sun, is well-drained, and has good air circulation.

At the nursery, we soak the roots/soil/pot with a solution of fish emulsion and seaweed for 5 minutes and plant immediately. Then, no more water. The plants are already wet. Use excess soaking liquid on other plants.

Dig a hole bigger than the size of pot. Roots prefer loose soil. Make a cone shaped mound at the bottom of the hole.

Remove plant from pot by gently squeezing the sides and bottom. Put your fingers on top of soil, with the stem between your fingers. Turn the pot over, and gently tap the bottom of the pot; the entire plant and root ball should slide out easily.

With a knife or your fingers, cut an "X" ~1 inch deep in the bottom of the root ball. Turn the plant stem side up, and gently extend the 4 "legs" down, so that all the roots are now pointing down.

Place the transplant into the hole straddling the cone shaped mound of soil, with the legs pointing in 4 directions (North, East, South and West).

Plant tomatoes as deep as you can, removing all leaves that will be below ground. Plant straight down, leaving only 6 inches of top growth above ground. Tomatoes will root along their stems, and planting deep allows access to free moisture in the cool, moist soil found down deep underground.

Backfill. Gently pat down the soil.

Ring plants with Granular Organic fertilizer, 3 inches from the stem, and scratch in to start the breakdown.

Cover soil with a thick 5 inch layer of a grass type mulch like straw. Or hay on top of sections of newspaper. By using mulch you will not need to water. Weeds won’t grow. Plants are happy.

When and How Do I Fertilize My Tomato Plants?

We use organic fertilizers on all of our plants.

Organic fertilizers promote the good bacteria and soil microorganisms which are essential for good plant health. They encourage earthworms and other soil organisms which are good at aerating and loosening the soil. They make soils better and better each year! This is the way to grow.

Inorganic fertilizers damage the soil, contribute to nitrogen runoff which pollutes our rivers, as well as repel the good organisms which we need for healthy soils. Stick with organic fertilizers!

Tomatoes are more disease prone, so we recommend using Seaweed aka Kelp#3. Use 2 Tablespoons per gallon of water, once a week for 3 weeks ( the 1st application is the soak), then monthly. Seaweed is full of many micronutrients, a sort of multivitamin for plants. It also helps combat the stresses that plants are subjected to, such as heat, drought, and insect attack. It is wonderful stuff!

We also apply a 1/4 cup = 4 Tablespoons of Granular Organic fertilizer at planting. It will take a few weeks to hit the roots, but it provides strong growth and great production. Tomatoes are not heavy feeders, so only one application at planting is necessary. Don’t overfeed tomatoes.

What Tomato Plants Would Do Best In My Area?

Most tomatoes will do well in most areas of the country. Know the length of your season.

Northern areas with short growing seasons need Early Season varieties = varieties that produce in the shortest amount of time = early in the season. In short growing season areas it is important to push your plants by using organic fertilizers to make them grow, grow, grow!

When Is The Best Time To Plant Tomatoes In My Area?

You want to plant tomatoes when the nighttime temps will stay above 55 degrees, and the ground is warm.

Young plants thrive on warm soil, especially at night, when they grow. Young plants hate being cold. They catch a chill that stresses them and makes them more susceptible to disease. Tomatoes are disease prone anyhow. Planting too early will produce very unsatisfactory results, and will actually lose you time to harvest, as the plants are set back. Never plant early.

See our Safe Planting Date Map to know when to plant. Never plant early. Nights above 55 degrees.

To warm your soil, place black or clear plastic down where your garden will be, a few weeks before planting, to allow the sun to heat up the soil. Not necessary, but helpful.

If you need to hold for more than a week or so, up-pot the plants into a slightly larger 4-6 inch pot using potting soil (we DO NOT recommend Miracle Gro Potting Mix), and keep dry. If they will remain in these larger pots for more than 2-3 weeks, fertilize with low levels of organic fertilizer weekly.

How Do I Get The Soil Ready For Planting?

Healthy plants need healthy soil. The extra effort put into preparing the soil will be repaid handsomely with extra health and yield of the plant.

For a new garden, dig at least 12 inches deep and add lots of organic matter. This includes compost, shredded dried leaves, peat moss and dehydrated cow manure. Don't skimp on the organic matter.

For existing gardens, do not plant tomatoes (and/or peppers and/or eggplants) in the same spot more than once every 3 years. This lessens the chance of your plants becoming susceptible to disease.

If planting in the same location every year, you must add lots of organic matter to your garden every year, more than the amount of production that you took from your garden the year before. Don't skimp on organic matter.

Extremely helpful is our Granular Organic fertilizer, which will add essential nutrients to your garden and make up for any soil deficiencies. 

How Far Apart Should I Plant My Tomato Plants?

Plant Tomato plants 36" apart, with rows 36" apart, minimally. Tomatoes love to sprawl.

Tomatoes are tall vining plants, especially cherry tomatoes, and they need containement - stake, cage, fence or otherwise keep your plants from falling on the ground. Very important is to keep air completely circulating your plants, do not let them turn into a jungle. Remove lower leaves as the season progresses to keep air circulating.

Never allow smokers to touch your tomato plants, as Tobacco Mosaic Virus is passed this way.

Do not tend your tomato plants when they are wet from either rain or dew, as this can pass diseases among plants.

To pinch or not to pinch?

And that is a good question. We are talking about pinching out the suckers that occur between the stem and the side branches.

We do not pinch. We feel that the more you fuss with your plants by pinching, the more open wounds you are making on your plants, and the more areas for anything funky to get inside. Plus, we usually are too busy! But many feel that pinching gives the plant more energy, and more tomatoes. We don't really know, we get lots of tomatoes without pinching.

So the question remains. Pinch some and don't pinch others and let us know how you do.

 

 

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