5 Secrets to Growing Great Tomatoes
Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables grown in the United States. It’s easy to see why after tasting a tomato from the grocery store. Growing great tomatoes at home is a passion and an art, but it’s not that hard to learn how.
Grocery store tomatoes are devoid of flavor and texture because they have to be bred to travel. Growing great tomatoes at home lets you choose the varieties that are tastiest because they don’t need to be sturdy in a crate going across the country.
Grocery store tomatoes are also picked before they are ripe so they will still be good by the time they get to the store. Growing great tomatoes at home lets you leave them on the vine as long as possible for optimum flavor and juiciness.
Secret one for growing great tomatoes
Nutrients. Tomatoes like lots of nutrition in their soil, so dig in a lot of compost before you start planting. You can make your own, click here to see how, or you can buy bags of compost from the store. Obviously making your own will save you a ton of money and trouble transporting it, but it does take time as well.
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Tomatoes like well-drained soil and don’t want to grow in compacted clay (like just about everything else)
When I plant tomato plants I dig a hole twice as deep as I want to plant my seedling, and then I add a banana peel (for potassium), a ¼ cup of ground up egg shells (for calcium) and a tablespoon or so of Epsom salts (for magnesium). Once I put those in the hole, then I put some of the dirt back into the hole until it’s the depth I need and the plant the plant. I rarely have trouble with blossom end rot and my plants always do fairly well.
Potassium helps tomatoes put on a lot of fruit, calcium is one way to fight blossom end rot, and magnesium helps tomatoes grow nice and green. If you feed your tomato plants a lot of nitrogen, they will look gorgeous but put on very little fruit.
Secret two for growing great tomatoes
Structure. Tomatoes need a lot of support. I find that store bought tomato cages are far sub-par for what my plants always need. I like to make tomato supports from cattle panels that I cut into small panels and tie together with zip ties. This helps the center of my tomatoes get a very sturdy support.
I also find that when my tomatoes grow so tall they fall over the top of the support, it’s great to prune them. I cut the tops off and let the bottom part of the plant grow vigorously. I find the tomatoes ripen faster this way and set more and larger fruit. Don’t be afraid to prune your tomato plants.
Another great tip for growing great tomatoes is to bury them deeper than they are in the pot. The little hairs on the stem will become new roots and make the plant much stronger. This will help it stand up to weather and flourish. Don’t bury them too deep. We have tested it and going about half way up the plant turned out the very best for us. Then we remove the leaves closest to the ground to prevent fungus longer.
Secret three for growing great tomatoes
Companionship. Tomatoes LOVE to grow next to garlic, parsley, and carrots. Basil planted with tomatoes gives it a wonderful flavor. Marigolds or nasturtiums planted with tomatoes repel the hornworm.
Tomatoes should NOT be grown with corn or potatoes which attract the same pests. They should also not be grown with cabbages, broccoli or other cole crops or fennel because they inhibit the growth of the tomatoes. To find out more about companion planting, click here.
Secret four for growing great tomatoes
Water. Tomatoes do not grow well with lots of watering. Water can cause and spread fungus which is the top enemy of growing great tomatoes. Water tomatoes at the soil, never from above and only one inch of water per week.
Secret five to growing great tomatoes
Timing. Tomatoes taste amazing when ripened completely on the vine but many times if you attempt to ripen them completely that way, animals will come and peck or bite them and ruin your delicious harvest. Raccoons will even pick the tomatoes and take them whole. Rats and squirrels will bite the bottoms of the fruit and drink the juice. You can prevent some of this by having water available for wildlife in your garden.
Don’t pick your tomatoes green, but you can outsmart your competition for epic tomatoes by waiting until first blush to pick your tomatoes and bring them in. when they begin to just barely turn colors, the sugars in the fruit are beginning to set and you can pick them and ripen them on your counter inside.
Don’t forget to NEVER put tomatoes in the refrigerator because it ruins the flavor and texture of them. Always keep them out on the counter. If you have to refrigerate them for some reason, you can use them for cooking, but they won’t ever be as good raw.
I hope you grow the best tomatoes of your life this year. What secrets do you have to growing great tomatoes?
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