1. Read labels carefully.
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 even 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 if you can.
3. Add organic material!
Incorporate liberal amounts of a quality soil amendment and/or compost all through your chosen garden spot. The better the soil, the better the tomatoes. In a new garden area till lightly. After that, layering the nutrients across the top of the soil is advised, as frequent aggressive tilling can disturb soil systems. Use a premium potting soil as a base in your container plantings, then add organics. Check out our container planting guide here for more details.
4. Dig deep and plant deep.
When you set out your seedlings snip off the lowest leaves and bury part of the stem in a deep and well amended hole, leaving only the top 3-4 inches of the plant above the surface. The buried stem will grow roots!
5. Water correctly.
This means soak the rootball, every 3 or 4 days for the first few weeks. Once the plant is set and starts growing, water deeply and infrequently all through the season. 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 on the product you’re using and feed around the roots at planting. Do that again once the plants begin to flower and every so often as the season goes along. Foliar feeding (using a water soluble fertilizer and wetting the leaves and roots) at intervals along the way is also a good idea, just don’t overdo it.
7. Container growers, disregard numbers 5 and 6!
Your plants may 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. You need to feed more often too given sharper drainage – every ten to fourteen days. Check out our container planting guide here for more details.
8. Support your plants.
Wooden or bamboo stakes, cages, an arbor, even a fence or wire grid can support your plants as they grow. Supports don’t have to be pretty, they just have to be strong! Spread the branching out if you can. Tie off as needed with velcro, thick twine or a soft rope.
9. Add mulch and be diligent!
When the summer heats up add mulch around the base of your plants to cool them. Inspect your tomatoes each day in order to note any change that might signal a problem. Exercise your option to prune (pinch) side growth to heighten production or to limit the size and 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 deeper color and some softness before you devour your harvest. That’s how you’ll get the most out of the season.