1. Read labels carefully and choose varieties that are right for you. Cherries? Beefsteaks? Choose early, midseason and late tomatoes. Let the “Days to maturity” on the label be your guide. Tomatoes are very tough but select seedlings with sturdy stems and bright green leaves.
2. Find the sun. Tomatoes want sun and heat. 6 hours of full sun is the minimum for success, 8 hours is optimal. In super hot areas however, it may be necessary to shade the plants during the hottest part of the day for best results. As you decide where to plant remember that it’s a good idea to rotate planting areas each season.
3. Add organic fertilizer and liberal amounts of soil amendment and/or compost to your chosen garden spot. The better the soil, the better the tomatoes. Layering the nutrients across the top of the soil is advised, as frequent aggressive tilling can disturb soil systems. Combine planting mix and potting soil in your container plantings.
4. Dig deep and plant deep as you set out your seedlings. Snip off the lowest leaves and bury part of the stem, leaving only the top 3-4 inches of the plant above the surface.
5. Water correctly, which means soak the rootball, every 3 or 4 days for the first few weeks. Give them only what they need. Once tomatoes start growing, water deeply and even more infrequently. As tomatoes grow, the plant will inevitably yellow in places. More water won’t fix that and too much water can dilute taste!
6. Fertilize wisely. Follow directions and feed around the roots at planting, and again once the plants begin to flower. That’s all it should need unless you know your soil is desperately lacking in nutrients. Foliar feeding along the way is a good idea, just don’t overdo it.
7. Container growers, disregard numbers 5 and 6! Your plants will need water as often as every day in the hottest part of the season. Do your best to soak the pot each time you apply. Given that you need to feed more often too – every ten to fourteen days.
8. Support your plants with bamboo stakes or the cage of your choice as they grow. Supports don’t have to be pretty. Just hold them up!
9. Be diligent! Watch your tomatoes each day in order to note any change that might signal a problem. Exercise your option to prune (pinch) side growth if you need to limit the size or spread of your plants.
10. Enjoy your tomatoes when they are truly ripe! Just because a red tomato turns red doesn’t mean it is necessarily at the peak of flavor. Wait! Look for true deep color and some softness before you devour your harvest. That’s how you’ll get the most out of the season.