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How to Grow Awesome Tomatoes (Top 10 Tips)

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Have you ever dreamt of growing the biggest, juiciest, sweetest, most colorful tomatoes you or anyone around you has ever seen? 

As you can tell, here at Grafted Growers, we are superfans of those tiny but mighty fruits that come in all shapes, sizes & colors. 

Rarely will you find a devoted gardener who has yet to try their hand at growing a crop of these delicious health boosters. Be it in pots on balconies or on massive farms in middle America, Tomatoes can be found growing across the globe from bustling inner cities to quiet acreages in the country. 

But no matter the level of expertise or the years behind your knowledge, Tomatoes, like most all of nature’s fruits & vegetables are prone to a variety of misfortunes if not planted and cared for properly. 

We here at Grafted Growers wanted to ensure that your next crop is the best crop by offering a few tried, tested and true tips that will get you closer to the tomato of your dreams! 

1.HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR TOMATOES:

With over 25,000 varieties of tomatoes available world wide, you will want to make sure that you get familiar with the tomatoes available in your region. You can then figure out which of those best suit your specific needs.

Even though tomatoes vary by region, they all can be narrowed down to two main categories, determinate (bush variety that grow no taller than 3 feet & fruits all at once) or indeterminate (Can grow taller than 6 feet & will grow until killed by frost) and three main types, Cherry Tomatoes, Sauce Tomatoes & Beefsteak Tomatoes.

Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are known for their sweet-tart flavor and are a popular  snack that can turn a salad into a quick and easy meal.
Sauce Tomatoes
Sauce tomatoes are known for their low water content which makes them great for sauces, pastes, and sun-dried, or dehydrated, tomatoes that can be added to salads & toppings in recipes.
Beefsteak Tomatoes
Beefsteak varieties you may remember from your childhood picking from the vine and eating like an apple. These are the biggest fruits and are very flavorful. These are great for sandwiches or burgers!

2.HOW TO START YOUR TOMATOES (SEEDS, SEEDLINGS OR PLANTS):

Determine if you will be growing from seed, using seedlings or caring for a slightly established plant. If you are new to caring for Tomatoes, a slightly more established plant will be a great place to start your journey into the wonderful world of tomatoes.

If you are somewhat familiar with gardening, seedlings can be a great way to control the ‘purity’ of your plant, being you will know exactly what is being fed to your tomatoes and can choose between accelerated growth tactics or chemical free gardening.

Seeds will always be more difficult to grow any fruit or vegetable from, so this method is generally recommended to those who have the most experience or background in gardening.

We at grafted growers recommend the use of seedlings because the hardest part of growing is behind you.

3.HOW TO CHOOSE WHERE TO PLANT YOUR TOMATOES:

What’s the climate like in your area? Hot or Cold? Wet or Dry?  Will they be going directly into the ground or will they be grown in pots!?

Will they be in a small corner of your garden or grown on your 4th floor balcony? Knowing where you would like to plant your tomatoes will help you narrow down the best types of tomatoes that fit your needs and ensure a healthy & fruitful crop.

4.HOW TO CHOOSE SOIL FOR YOUR TOMATOES:

Tomatoes like their soils slightly on the acidic side. Meaning the ideal 6.0 to 6.8 pH they crave is slightly below the neutral measurement of 7.0. To test your soils you can buy a simple home soil test kit, and then amend your soils accordingly. If you need to lower your pH, the addition of organic materials, such as compost, or aluminum sulfate to your soils will get the job done.

Compost will continue to break down and decompose while in ground, providing additional nutrients, as well as improving soils structure. Simply work either into the soils prior to planting or add as you see fit during the growing season.

5.HOW TO PLANT YOUR TOMATOES:

Before you plant your seedling, be sure to have a hole ready for it. Newly transplanted plants do well if you place a pinch of epsom salts in the bottom of the hole to make certain nutrients immediately accessible to the roots, and to help offset transplant shock.

Holes should be twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball. This is especially important for tomatoes since they root from the stem (fun fact: a broken branch stuck back in the ground will often re-root itself into a new plant). You will want to place your seedling 1/3 of the way up the stem to ensure healthy root growth.

Root growth equals big, healthy plants and lots of tomatoes! Now for grafted plants, you want to be certain not to plant above the graft line.  This prevents the Scion  from rooting on it’s own. If you have used or purchased a plant in a biodegradable pot then all you need to do is remove the bottom and plant the pot with the seedling still inside. But if you need to remove it for transplantation, gently tip the container and squeeze the sides to loosen the soils.

Your seedlings should slip out fairly easily for you to cradle the soils bound roots and place into the hole you’ve created. Cover with soils and gently push it into place.

6.HOW TO FERTILIZE YOUR TOMATOES:

Tomatoes are BIG eaters due to their excessive rapid growth & flowering which can produce a bounty of fruits each season.

Most do well on a strict feeding schedule, especially if you know your soil isn’t nutrient rich. Even if you believe you have good soil, a small addition at planting cannot hurt. If you are considering fertilizing, doing so at time of transplant, and again as a side dressing when fruits are golf ball sized and every three weeks afterwards should be enough.

One and a half tablespoons per plant is all you need. Be sure to use a general all-purpose fertilizer, such as a 5-10-10 mix. Lower nitrogen is something you want to consider since high nitrogen will result in a lot of leafy growth, but few flowers. Which results in fewer tomatoes.

7.HOW TO WATER YOUR TOMATOES:

Water deeply and regularly while the fruits are developing. Irregular watering—missing a week and trying to make up for it—leads to blossom end rot and cracking and splitting. The rule of thumb is to ensure your plants get at least 1 inch of water per week, but during hot, dry spells, they may need more.

If your plants start to look wilted for most of the day, give them a drink.After the fruit begins to ripen, you can ease up on the watering. Lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars, for better flavor. Use your judgment.

Don’t withhold water so much that the plants continually wilt and become stressed or they will drop their blossoms and possibly their fruit. 

8.HOW TO PROTECT YOUR TOMATOES:

Whether going up against fruits or hornwords, stink bugs, aphids, whiteflies and spider mites or warding off blossom end rot (a calcium deficiency), you will need to be vigilant against the long list of pest and disease that can ruin your crop.

In fact, the list is so long that we won’t bother trying to explain it all, rather here’s a few rules that if followed can help keep you on your quest for the perfect tomato! 

a) Minimize irrigation

b) Water at ground level

c) Water in the morning

d) Prune dead & sick leaves

e) Allow air flow

f) Keep away from other plants

g) Use clean tools

h) Control pests

i) Fertilize! 

9.HOW TO TRAIN YOUR TOMATOES:

The easy rule of thumb is, bush tomatoes require cages, non-bush tomatoes require stakes! Be it a trellis, a piece of wood or a fence, your plants will absolutely need support, unless growing smaller hanging varieties. Training your Tomatoes needs to start early, as in no more than a month after transplant.

Tomatoes grow quickly, and will start to put out non-producing sucker branches within this time frame. You need to remove these suckers on single staked stems as they appear. If you are staking them, or using a string, start tying off, or twining the main stem every 6 to 8 inches.

Make sure to tie loosely as they will continue to grow and you don’t want to have them grow through the tie and strangle themselves. Also tie above a clump of flowers to keep from accidentally crimping them. For trellis or cage methods, train out multiple main stems as described above by allowing a few of the suckers to grow (generally 3 to 4), and then cutting off all subsequent suckers. These suckers will become part of the main plant body and put out producing branches.

10.HOW TO HACK YOUR TOMATOES:

O.K, well you can’t TECHNICALLY hack a tomato like you hack a computer, but there are a few things you can do to encourage your tomatoes along the way. A tomato ripening is pretty much at the mercy of the weather, but sometimes we can help things along.

Pinching off the tips of the main stems in early summer will encourage indeterminate tomatoes to start putting their energy into flowering. Indeterminate tomatoes like to grow tall before they start setting fruits, so don’t be alarmed if your tomato plants aren’t flowering for their first month or two.

Pinching is also a handy trick toward the end of the summer when you want the last tomatoes to hurry up and ripen. It shouldn’t be a problem getting determinate tomatoes (those that ripen all at once) to set fruit unless weather conditions are unfavorable and cause a condition aptly named “blossom drop.”

Now that you are familiar with choosing, starting, feeding, growing and protecting your tomatoes, we here at Grafted Growers wish you all the best on your journey towards the perfect tomato. If trying all of the above tips seems daunting or isn’t something you might have the time for, keep in mind, we provide a simple and easy solution to growing tomatoes that allows you to eat healthier, save money and grow your own food! 

Written by: Mat ‘Preach’ Slater | July 27 2020

Sources/References: 

  1. Grow Your Tomatoes With These Easy Tips: https://www.backyardboss.net/tips-for-growing-tomatoes/
  2. Top 10 Tomato Growing Tips: https://www.thespruce.com/top-tomato-growing-tips-1402587
  3. 10 Tips For Growing Tomatoes: https://www.almanac.com/news/gardening-news/tomato-growing-tips


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