Tomatoes are one of the most rewarding edible plants you can grow you can grow in your garden. A single plant can produce kilograms of tasty, juicy fruit in mid to late summer. They are easy to grow, can be grown in the garden or in containers and come in hundreds of modern and heirloom varieties.
Choosing a Tomato Variety
Tomatoes come in a wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes. In fact, there are hundreds if not thousands of different tomatoes you can grow, most of which will taste and look better than those tasteless, watery, polished red globes from the grocery store. While the most popular are the cherry tomatoes and the large slicing beefsteaks, growing your own tomatoes is all about trying something new!
Tomatoes are classified as either Heirloom or Modern varieties. Heirloom varieties are generally older and are open-pollinated. They are grown for historical interest, for saving seeds year after year and for variety. Modern varieties, or hybrids, are generally newer and do not come true from seed.
To grow well, Tomatoes need three things. First, lots of sunlight, 6-8 hours a day is preferred. Second, leave some space around each plant to ensure good air circulation. Finally, Tomato plants need lots of water on a regular basis. As we mentioned, tomato plants can be grown in the garden or in a container. When planting in containers, choose a large, deep one as tomatoes seem to prefer it.
Before planting a tomato, gently remove any branches near the soil, leaving some larger ones higher up. We do this because Tomatoes are one of the few plants that benefit from being planted deeply. Dig a hole that is between 1/3 to ½ the height of your plant. Sprinkle Bonemeal into the hole. This organic fertilizer encourages root growth and fruit development. Put the tomato plant into the hole. Along its main stem are small hairs. When these hairs make contact with soil, new roots will develop. These new roots will give the new tomato plant a great jump start and hopefully produce more fruit. Back fill the hole with soil and pat down to remove air pockets. Water thoroughly.
Tomato plants are heavy feeders and will benefit from regular application of fertilizer. Apply an organic or manufactured fertilizer with a high middle number. This nutrient, Phosphorus, encourages the production of roots, flowers and fruits, all of which we need for a good tomato crop. We particularly like Gaia Green and Orgunique products as well as our in-house GardenPro brand.
We plant lots of different types to test them and nothing is worse than forgetting which one was which. Take our advice, if planting more than one variety, take the time to label your plants!
Bush vs Vine Tomatoes
Tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate or bush-form tomatoes are bred to be smaller and have a more controlled growth habit. They stop growing when the terminate or top bud sets fruit. Do not prune these varieties as it may limit the crop size. Indeterminate varieties or vine-type are scrambling, reaching plants that will keep on growing if allowed to. They will continue to grow and set fruit until frost. Vining tomatoes will benefit from staking and/or the use of a tomato cage to keep the plant upright. This will help keep the leaves and foliage from touching the soil.
Tomatoes require lots of water on a regular basis. Water in the morning and try to avoid getting the leaves wet. Wet leaves can lead to disease and plant health problems. Tomatoes respond well when watered on schedule – try to keep the soil evenly moist. The worst technique is watering irregularly. Stick to a schedule – but don’t allow the plant to dry or become soggy.
Pinch and Prune for More Tomatoes
Refocus the energy of the tomato plant by removing suckers that develop in the crotch joint between two branches. These branches will not bear fruit and take away energy that could otherwise produce more fruit. Avoid excessive pruning or leaf removal as the plant needs the foliage to produce fruit.
Common Tomato Problems
Blossom End Rot
A very common problem when growing tomatoes is blossom end rot. This disease manifests itself with a large brown soggy spot on the bottom end of the tomato. Throw those tomatoes away as they will not be pleasant to eat. The best way to prevent this issue is to plant your tomatoes with added Calcium. Our GardenPro Tomato Food already includes calcium to help prevent this problem.
Tomato cracking occurs because of irregular watering. When over-watered, the tomato will grow faster than the skin can keep up to – resulting in cracks. Cracked tomatoes are still edible, but pick them right away to prevent pests and disease from moving in.
Yellow leaves on a tomato plant are a symptom of 1 or 2 problems. Either the plant needs nitrogen or it is being over-watered. To solve the problem apply a tomato or all purposed fertilizer and get your watering under control.
Tomato Blossom Die and Fall Off
Tomato Blossom Drop occurs for a variety of reasons. It may be caused by using fertilizers with an excess of Nitrogen, dry windy conditions or temperature variation. Tomatoes are sensitive to temperature when they bloom and set fruit. If the temperature falls below 55F or above 75F at night, or reaches over 90F during the day, the pollen in the flower becomes non-viable and the flower falls off.
My Tomato is Tall and Scraggly
Tomato stems have hairy fibres that when they come in contact with soil will form new roots. If you have a tall, scraggly tomato plant, mound soil around the stem. If you do this, remove any foliage that would come in contact with the soil other than the stem.
At Art's Nursery, we carry a great selection of tomatoes from April through late Summer. Drop by and visit us, pick up a couple and plant them today!