Tomatoes are a popular addition to any garden and can be one of the most rewarding plants to grow. Whether you’re planting in a raised bed, in containers, or in a garden patch, there are a few steps to ensure your tomato plants thrive and provide you plenty of juicy fruits. Here is the ultimate guide to growing the perfect tomato plant.
Before You Plant
1. Select your variety.
When it comes to growing tomatoes, there is a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. Choose from heirloom, cherry, beefsteak, and other types to find the best fit for your garden. Make sure to research the particular characteristics of each variety to ensure you’re selecting the best one for your needs.
2. Select the right location.
Tomatoes require plenty of sunlight — at least six hours each day — so make sure you pick a spot that gets plenty of direct rays. They also thrive in temperatures between 70-80 degrees, so if you live in a cooler climate, you may want to consider a location with some protection from the elements.
3. Prepare the soil.
Tomatoes require well-draining, nutrient-rich soil to grow their best. Amend the soil with a layer of compost or manure before planting to give the plants a boost.
When to Plant
1. Start seeds indoors.
Most tomato varieties are started from seed indoors before being transplanted outdoors. Start the seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost date in your area.
2. Move the plants outdoors.
Once the risk of frost has passed, it’s safe to move the plants outdoors. Harden them off for a few days before planting to ensure they don’t get too much shock from the sudden change in environment.
3. Plant in the ground.
Dig a hole for each plant about twice as wide as the root ball and just deep enough to cover the roots. Plant each tomato about two feet apart and cover with soil.
How to Care for Tomato Plants
1. Water regularly.
Tomatoes are thirsty plants, so make sure to water them deeply and regularly. Aim for about 1” of water each week and water in the morning to give the plant plenty of time to dry out before nightfall.
To ensure your tomatoes get the nutrients they need, fertilize the plants with a balanced fertilizer once a month.
Mulch the soil around your tomato plants with straw, hay, or shredded leaves to retain moisture and prevent weeds from invading the area.
Tomatoes are climbers, so keep the plants in check by pruning away any branches that are growing too low or too thick. This will also help to increase air circulation and reduce the risk of disease.
Harvesting Your Tomatoes
1. Check for ripeness.
Tomatoes should be harvested when they are firm and fully ripe. Check for color, size, and feel to determine when to pick.
2. Harvest with care.
Use a pair of pruning shears or harvesting scissors to gently cut away the ripe tomatoes. Handle with care to avoid bruising.
3. Store the tomatoes.
Tomatoes should be kept in a cool place — around 50 degrees — and used as soon as possible. Store in a single layer to prevent bruising and don’t refrigerate unless necessary as this can affect the flavor.
With these tips, your tomato plants should be thriving in no time! With a little TLC, you’ll soon be enjoying the fruits of your labor.