Top Tomato Growing Secrets
It’s hard to imagine anything better than biting into the first home-grown tomato of the season. Beloved by all, and easy to take care of, tomatoes take the cake when it comes to fresh garden veggies. With a surge of gardeners wanting to grow their own food, we’ve put together some classified and confidential growing tips to help you have amazing, thriving tomato plants.
Tons of Sunshine
Tomatoes need plenty of sunshine to produce lots of tasty fruit. Ideally, this means a range of 6 or more hours of sunlight per day. The sunnier, the better, which is great for sunny California. Plan ahead to scout out the sunniest locations in your yard. If you’re starting seeds indoors, make sure you have proper grow lights to get your seeds sprouting properly.
One basic tomato growing tip is to plant your tomatoes in the right soil. Choose well-draining soil that is slightly acidic and with lots of organic matter in it. You can always pick up a soil testing kit to see if your soil is lacking any key nutrients, or needs a better balance. The pH level should be between 6.5-6.8 for optimal tomato growing conditions. It’s always a great idea to add a compost mix rich in nutrients to give your plants a boost.
Our fertilizing tips for growing tomatoes are simple: do it! Tomatoes require a lot of nutrients to grow a healthy and strong harvest. You’ll know from your soil test what nutrients your soil is lacking, so choose a fertilizer with the right combination to fulfill what’s missing. If you didn’t test your soil, you can use a general tomato fertilizer once a week.
Quench the Thirst
Tomatoes love the sun, which means they also need a lot of water. Improper and irregular watering can lead to tomatoes splitting or developing blossom end rot. Stick to a regular watering schedule and apply a layer of mulch under your plants to help regulate and retain moisture in the soil. You can try using a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to help keep the water flowing properly to your thirsty plants.
Creating Air Circulation
Some of us need fans to deal with hot days and tomatoes aren’t much different. No matter what the temperature, tomatoes need good air circulation to keep them growing healthy and strong. Outdoor tomato plants are usually okay with the natural air circulation the wind provides, but if you have tomato plants or seedlings indoors or in a greenhouse, make sure to provide them with some gentle winds from a fan or two.
We all need somebody to lean on sometimes, and so do tomato plants. Some varieties will be fine in tomato cages, but others will need taller stakes, ties, and trellises in order to keep them growing correctly. Make sure your tomatoes are protected from the elements, which can cause them to break or fall over.
Prune the Suckers
Tomatoes will produce little mini plants called suckers. They’ll look like one or two small leaves growing at the joint of a tomato branch and stem. While it’s great that your plant is growing well, these suckers are not ideal for the main tomato plant. Our tip for growing the best tomatoes is to prune off the suckers as soon as you see them.
Plant Tomatoes Deeply
Just like philosophers, tomatoes like to be deep! Some tomato growing tips just cover where to plant, but fail to mention how to plant them. Tomato plants like to be planted deep and can grow roots right from their central stem, so cut off the bottom set of leaves and place the tomato plant in the ground right up to the next set of leaves, which should be just above the soil line.
Tomatoes require pollination in order to thrive. In outdoor settings, you’ll naturally have some pollinators buzzing around your plant and doing the hard work, but you can always step in to assist. Grab a clean toothbrush and hold it against the bottom of each tomato flower, then tap it for a few seconds. Continue this routine every time a new tomato flower opens.
Out With the Old Leaves
Your tomato plants will need some maintenance as they grow. Once they reach about 3 feet tall, keep an eye out for old leaves that are starting to yellow. These leaves are usually near the base of the plant and are susceptible to fungus, which can spread up your plant. Snip off the leaves to prevent disease from spreading and ruining your harvest.
Blossom end rot is something dreaded by all tomato gardeners. It’s a nasty brown or black spot that grows on the bottom of your tomatoes, making them inedible. The main cause of blossom end rot is a lack of nutrient absorption. This happens when the soil is too dry and the tomato plant can’t soak up the nutrients. So be sure to water your tomato plants properly and don’t let them get too dry. If watering isn’t the problem, you could be lacking some nutrients in the soil. Try adding dolomite lime, lime calcium carbonate, gypsum, calcium oxide, or bone meal to your soil.
We hope these tomato growing tips for California can help you have the best tomato harvest ever! If you need help selecting supplies, plants, or just want some more inspiration and information, come visit us! We’re always happy to help.
About SummerWinds Nursery: SummerWinds Garden Centers is a leading high-end retailer of garden and nursery products. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, SummerWinds operates retail nurseries in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, and in Silicon Valley, California, making it one of the largest independent retail nursery companies in the west. SummerWinds appeals to both the serious and casual gardeners, with a broad selection of premium gardening products and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.