It’s my most favorite time of the year to be a gardener. Tomato harvesting time is just around the corner! If you’re like me, you can’t wait to taste those first tomatoes off the vine. They are simply…bliss.
For tomato gardeners, there’s nothing worse than tired tomato plants that under-produce for you. Following a few simple, but critical tips can almost guarantee that you will get a bumper crop of tasty tomatoes to enjoy all season long.
Your tomatoes need at least one inch of water per week, either by rain or by the faucet. (Rain is always better!) Take care not to let your tomato plants dehydrate as nothing will kill a tomato plant quicker than lack of water. Even if your plant recovers from a minor water emergency, it could lead to a leaner harvest of fruits later on.
When watering your tomatoes with a garden hose or watering can, try to water the base of the plant and the soil as much as possible, avoiding excess water on the leaves and stems. Excessive moisture (especially tapwater) on the plant can encourage disease. Of course, you can’t avoid this with rain water, but it is much healthier for your plants than tap water.
Some gardeners like to use soaker hoses in their tomato garden for this reason.
As your tomato plants grow, prune away the small stems at the bottom of the plant. Prune the bottom 6-8 inches of stems measuring from the main stock of the plant. This simple chore will allow the plant to put its nutrients and energy into the growth of fruit. Pruning these bottom stems will also aid in the ripening process.
Additionally, pruning your bottom stems will also encourage healthy air circulation which helps reduce the chances of disease, fungus, and bug infestation.
Tie ‘Em Up
Your tomato plants need a strong support system while growing. You can use a tomato stake, trellis, cage, fencing, lattice – it’s your choice and personal preference. No matter what you choose, your tomatoes will reward you for the support by bearing a healthier, stronger fruit.
Tomatoes become weak very easily. Allowing your tomato plants to sag and sprawl on the ground will invite diseases and insects in quickly. Close contact with the ground can also cause your tomatoes to succumb to mildew, mold, and fungus.
Tomatoes are heavy feeders. For optimum harvests, you will need to provide them with extra-nutrition, even in the best of soil conditions. An application of natural fertilizer, like ProtoGrow, can make all the difference in your tomato bounty this season. Apply all-natural fertilizers as plant growth rapidly begins to accelerate and as fruits begin to set. You will want to repeat with a second feeding in about 2-3 weeks.
Mulch Your Tomatoes
Mulching your tomato plants is a “triple threat” for good tomato harvests. Mulching will 1) keep critical water in; 2) keep harmful diseases out; and 3) regulate root temperature.
All-natural, homemade compost is the best choice of mulch for tomato plants. If you don’t have compost available, you can also use grass clippings, straw, or leaves for mulching. Just make sure your grass clippings come from lawns that have not been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides.