While some people are counting down the days until they’re sunbathing on the beach or swimming in the pool, we’re counting down the days until our tomatoes are ripe and ready to eat! Tomatoes are delicious, easy to grow, and available in many varieties—a true triple threat!
Though they aren’t difficult to grow, there are a few secrets to growing awesome tomatoes in your garden.
Know Your Variety
Think of the tomato variety of your dreams—well, it probably already exists! The options are nearly endless, from tiny cherry tomatoes to giant beefsteaks, and in colors from classic red to brilliant yellow.
Tomatoes are classified in a few categories.
- Determinate tomatoes mature earlier and generally don’t require staking because they grow in a bushy shape.
- Indeterminate tomatoes mature later but produce high yields right until frost hits. They require staking and pinching.
- Heirloom tomatoes just keep on giving — besides producing tasty fruit, they also produce seeds you can save and grow into new plants. Most heirlooms are indeterminate.
After understanding the different types, you can choose which varieties best suit your needs and palate. At Wallace’s, we have 25 different varieties, so you’re sure to find a good match, whether you want them for slicing, for eating straight off the vine, or for fabulous dishes like sauces and soups (we can’t wait to make this delicious Vegetarian Roasted Tomato Basil Soup!).
Soil, Fertilizers, and Treatments for Healthy Tomatoes
To help you produce the most delicious crop, you can use a few key products.
- Foxfarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil is an all-natural mix ready to use straight from the bag and sets up the ideal environment for seedlings to become high-yielding plants.
- Espoma Tomato-tone is a natural organic fertilizer that encourages more flowers, leading to plump, juicy fruit. Use this fertilizer to enhance soil before planting and about twice a month once the plant has established.
- Ferti-lome Tomato and Pepper Set encourages blossoms to set fruit even if there has been poor weather. This results in nearly every blossom producing larger, meatier fruit that will ripen up to three weeks earlier than they would without the spray.
- Ferti-lome Yield Booster helps to stop and prevent blossom end rot by correcting calcium deficiencies. You can spot blossom end rot by looking for dark gray or black sunken areas on the bottom of the fruit.
Where to Plant and How to Water Tomatoes
Tomatoes love the heat and need a spot that gets at least six hours of full sun each day. Once the soil is warm and the last spring frost has passed, you can transplant seedlings directly into the ground, raised garden beds, or pots.
These plants need moist soil, so you may need to water them twice on hot summer days. Plants in pots will need even more frequent watering since they will try out faster. Still, you can overwater them, so to make sure your plants do need a drink, check the soil with your finger. If it’s damp, wait to water until it dries out later that day or the next morning.
How to Support Tomatoes
As the plants grow taller, they require support. Well-behaved varieties, like indeterminate ones, might not need to be planted by structures, but adding a cage can add an extra layer of support to prevent the plant from tipping over in the wind or from the weight of heavy fruit. Simply place the cage around a young plant and guide the branches through the cage as it grows. This allows the plant to grow its fruit without becoming crowded.
Determinate ones, which grow tall and a bit all over the place, will always need support. Without being tied to supports, determinate varieties grow in a tangle, become disease-prone, and produce fewer tomatoes. A sturdy cage can work, but we recommend using a tall stake or trellis. To train the plant to grow up the structure, tie the stems to the support about every six to eight inches. Tie the stems loosely with thick twine, plant tape, or strips of old pantyhose. Tying too tightly will damage the plant. When flower clusters appear, tie above the clusters so the weight of the fruit doesn’t make the stem fall over.
When to Prune Tomatoes
Regularly pruning your plants maintains their health and maximizes harvest since the plants can better divert their resources. Determinate varieties don’t require pruning since they are more manageable, but indeterminate varieties absolutely need regular pruning to keep the plants under control!
Suckers are those shoots that grow from where the side branches meet the stem. If left on the plant, they become full branches that will add more foliage but not more fruit to your plant. With your fingers, pinch off small suckers from branches, or if they are more than a couple inches long, use clean pruners to snip them off.
We also suggest you remove low-hanging branches since leaves that touch the ground have a higher chance of becoming diseased, and we don’t want that to spread to the rest of the plant. It’s also a good idea to avoid pruning the plants when they are wet to prevent the possibility of a fungus seeping into a fresh wound.
And there you have it, the best secrets to growing the best tomato harvest of your life. By following these top tips, you’ll have plenty of produce to eat fresh—or even preserve in cans for use all year round!