Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable/fruit grown in the US. For healthy productive tomatoes, think about the order in which the plant grows. Pay particular attention to the needs of each part of the plant as it develops.
Seeds and Seedlings
- Research the best varieties to grow in your zone and environment. Choose by type (cherry, paste, plumb, beef, etc.) taste, and production.
- Choose determinate (bushy) plants for areas with less room and indeterminate (viney) plants for greatest yield.
- Start seeds from late January to early April, depending on your zone and needs.
- Wrap seeds in a damp paper cloth and seal in a ziplock bag. Put in a warm place (75F-85F) and check germination frequently.
- Plant individual seeds or germinated sprouts into small pots with compost based starting mix and keep at around 75F.
- Transplant often when roots just fill the pot — not when pot-bound. Remove the lowest leaves and plant deeply each time.
- Sophisticated growers graft heirloom shoots onto disease resistant rootstock when stems are half the thickness of a pencil. See: Grafting Tomatoes
- New plants can be started from suckers. Carefully cut a sucker that is 2 1/2″ long and plant into starting mix with 1″ of the stem buried.
- For early planting out, protect with wall-of-water (or similar) plus row covers.
- Feed plants with Bountea plus M3 as soon as true leaves form.
- Do not plant out where tomatoes, peppers or eggplants were grown last year.
- Plant into rich warm (70F) soil with plenty of soil life, humus, minerals and nutrients.
- Remove leaves from the lower 3″-4″ of the stems. Plant diagonally in a shallow trench, covering the stems and gently bending up the tops of the plants.
- The root ball should be 3″-4″ below the surface. The hairs on the stem become additional roots.
- Mulch well with compost and cover with plastic (red or black), if preferred. When days get hot, add shading mulch so roots do not overheat.
- Water regularly and deeply to keep roots moist.
- When planting out, treat the soil with Bountea compost tea with both M3 and Root Web added.
- When choosing plants, look for ones with short stocky healthy stems.
- Do not plant too close together — 2 feet or more between plants.
- Support determinate plants (bushy) with tomato cages. Indeterminate (viney) plants need larger cages, strong stakes, supporting twine or a combination of these. Choose a method that suits your types of plant and situation best.
- Do not let the stem twist and compress as the plant grows heavy with fruit.
Leaves and Suckers (Mainly Indeterminate Plants)
- As plants grow, remove leaves and suckers from the lowest 6″ of the stem.
- Make sure leaves get plenty of light — 12 plus hours a day.
- If you intend to prune, remove suckers regularly before they are 1″ long.
- If suckers grow too long, pinch off the leaves at the tip and any additional suckers.
- Prune so that there are no more than 8 main branches. Each branch can fork to produce 2 smaller branches. Pinch off new suckers as they appear.
- If fruit are not setting late in the season, prune most of the leaves to shock the plant into fruiting.
- If leaves turn yellow with green veins, sprinkle a tablespoon of Epsoms Salts (Magnesium Sulphate) around the stem and water well.
- Foliar feed with Bountea plus M3 during the leafy growth phase of development.
- Watch flowers carefully to make sure they are being pollinated and setting fruit.
- Vibrate or agitate the plants when flowers are in bloom to distribute pollen.
- Dropping flowers are mainly caused by too high or low temperatures and/or lack of water. Water deeply and protect plants.
- Reduce fertilization with nitrogen rich products, such as M3, as flowers form on the mature plant.
- Treat soil and leaves with Bountea plus B3 to set abundant flowers and fruit as soon as buds form
- Support fruit trusses as they form to prevent lost tomatoes.
- Avoid blossom end rot by watering regularly in warm weather and making sure the soil has plenty of calcium — as in B3.
- Pinch off leaf tips on branches beyond the trussed to help set fruit.
- Leave tomatoes on the vine until fully ripe for the best flavor and nutrition. Harvest regularly.
- Treat with Bountea and B3 every 2 weeks during the fruiting season.
Enjoy a bounteous harvest of lush, ripe, juicy tomatoes!