With summer a few months away is the perfect time to start thinking about growing your tomatoes at home. Growing your tomatoes is a great way to get fresh, delicious tomatoes for salads, sandwiches, and cooking, and it can be a fun and rewarding hobby.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
Choose the most appropriate tomato variety for your needs
There are numerous varieties of tomatoes, so research to find the ones that best suit your needs. If you want to grow tomatoes for eating fresh, look for varieties listed as suitable for eating raw or slicing.
Start with healthy plants
If you’re starting with tomato seedlings, choose stocky plants with dark green leaves. Avoid plants that are tall, spindly, have yellow leaves or show signs of disease.
Plant in the correct location
Tomatoes need total sun exposure to produce well, so choose a spot in your garden that gets up to 8 hours of sunlight daily. The soil should be loose and well-drained, and if your soil is heavy or clay-like, consider adding raw compost or other organic matter to improve drainage.
As tomatoes grow, they will need support to keep the fruit from weighing down the stems and breaking them. You can use tomato cages and trellises or stake the plants with wooden stakes driven into the ground next to each plant.
Water regularly and evenly
Tomatoes need consistent moisture to produce well. Water deeply and evenly every week, ensuring to wet the roots but not the leaves (wet leaves are more susceptible to disease). If your area regularly has high humidity, you may need to water more often to prevent fungal diseases.
Tomatoes need a lot of food and will benefit from regular fertilization. Use a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 8-8-8 once every two weeks or according to the package directions.
Monitor for pests and diseases
Be on the lookout for common tomato pests such as aphids, cutworms, and whiteflies. These can be controlled with insecticidal soap or other organic pest control methods. Common diseases to watch out for include blossom end rot, early blight, and anthracnose. These can be controlled with fungicide sprays (follow the package directions carefully).
Pinch off any suckers that grow on the tomato plant branches
Suckers are tiny shoots that grow in the V-shaped area between the main stem and a branch. The suckers compete with the plant for nutrients and energy and can reduce yields. Pinch them off when they’re small using your fingers or pruning shears.
Don’t overcrowd your plants
Tomatoes need room to grow and produce well. Plant each one at least 24 inches apart and 36 inches if you plan to stake or cage them.
Harvest tomatoes when they’re ripe
Ripe tomatoes will be deep red (or the appropriate color for the variety) and slightly soft to the touch. Cut the tomatoes from the vine using pruning shears, taking care not to damage the plant.
The best type of tomatoes for growing at home
The best types of tomatoes to grow at home will vary depending on your needs and preferences.
These large tomatoes are ideal for slicing and eating fresh.
These small, sweet tomatoes are perfect for snacking or adding to salads.
These oval-shaped tomatoes are good for cooking and canning.
These oblong tomatoes have a dense flesh perfect for making sauces and soups.
When to plant tomatoes
The best time to plant your tomatoes will depend on your climate. In general, you should plant them when the weather is warm, and all danger of frost has passed.
How to plant tomatoes
You can plant tomatoes in the ground or in containers. If you’re planting in the ground, dig a large enough hole to accommodate the root ball of your tomato seedling. Gently remove the tomato plant from its temporary container and loosen any tangled roots. Set the plant in the hole, so the soil line on the stem is even with the surrounding soil. Backfill the hole, being careful not to bury the stem and water well.
If you’re planting tomatoes in containers, choose a pot at least 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Fill the new container with a high-quality potting mix and water well. Gently remove your tomato seedling from its container and loosen any tangled roots. Set it in the pot, so the soil line on the stem is even with the potting mix.
The bottom line
The benefits of growing your tomatoes are many. Not only will you save money on grocery bills, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing exactly where your fruit and vegetables come from and how it was grown. You can enjoy fresh, delicious tomatoes with some planning and care.