Top 10 tips for growing tomatoes
There's no better taste than biting into a homegrown tomato. You receive the freshest flavour and taste satisfaction because you cared and nurtured it from sprout in the ground to the delicious addition to your salad.
To grow great tasting tomatoes, you need to firstly choose your favourite varieties. If you grow them correctly from the start, the end result will be delicious. Here are the top ten time-tested tomato growing tips!
1. Don't overcrowd seeds
If you are growing your tomatoes from seeds, ensure the seedlings have plenty of room to branch out and grow. When they are overcrowded, they inhibit their growth which leads to disease. Once they get their first set of leaves, transfer them into their own individual four-inch pot to encourage healthy growth!
2. Light - let it shine
Tomato seeds require strong direct light. Your best option is to use some form of artificial plant lighting for 14-18 hours every day, especially during the winter months, or if you aren't growing them in a greenhouse. When you're ready to plant them outside, choose the sunniest part of your vegetable patch.
3. Preheat the soil in your garden
Tomatoes love and thrive with heat. Cover the planting area with either red or black plastic a couple of weeks ahead of when you intend to plant. Those extra degrees of soil warmth give your tomatoes a head start and translate into earlier tomatoes.
4. Go deep
Tomatoes grow roots from their stems and more roots will make for a stronger plant. Dig a deep hole or dig a shallow trench and lay the plant sideways.
5. Feed natural
On alternative weeks until you see the first tomatoes forming, water your plants regularly with a liquid organic fertiliser made from sea products such as kelp.
6. Remove the bottom leaves
When your tomatoes reach around 3 ft. tall, remove the leaves from the bottom 1 ft. of the stem. These will be the oldest leaves so are usually the first leaves to develop any fungus problems. This is because as the plants fill out, the bottom leaves get the least amount of sun and access to air. Remove them to avoid any problems spreading to the rest of the tomatoes.
7. Prune and pinch for even more tomatoes
Tomato plants form branches which are called suckers, in the spaces between their fruit-bearing limbs. Remove any suckers that develop around the crotch joint of two branches. This is an important process as they won’t bear any wonderful tomatoes and will take any energy away from the rest of the tomato plant.
8. Water deeply and regularly
For the first couple weeks after transplanting, it's important to keep the seeds consistently moisturised. When they’ve developed some leaves, it's then time to water them less frequently, but more deeply to encourage root growth deep in the soil. The rule of thumb is to ensure your plants get at least 1 inch of water per week, however, this will increase during hot spells.
9. Keep a watchful eye
Remember to keep close attention to your tomatoes. Wilting foliage means the tomatoes are thirsty or suffering from disease and keep and eye out for troublesome critters like hornworms and stinkbugs. These can be easily spotted and removed to save your tomatoes.
10. Patience is key
Tomatoes will change to their final colour, whether that's red, pink, yellow or orange before they are fully ripe. To test if they are ready, gently press them with your thumb and if you can smell their delightful aroma, they’re ready for you to eat!