Tomato growing secrets submitted by the ThriftyFun community.
The number 1 secret for growing great tomatoes is water control. A tomato is 90% water. It needs a constant supply of water measured out on a consistent basis. This helps maintain growth and keeps the skin pliable. Split tomatoes usually occur after a dry spell, and a deluge of water, such as a hard rain or a long overdue watering. Easiest method to prevent this is by mulching after the soil has warmed.
The next most frequent problem is end rot. The best solution is staking and tying up the tomatoes and getting a soil test. The usual problem is Calcium deficiency. Laying on the ground just accelerates the problem.
Tomatoes need lots of water. When young, water every day. When more mature, use a sprinkler for 10-20 minutes every other day or so depending on heat. This deep waters them. When they are almost ripe (orange) cut down on watering them, as this makes them ripen. Early Girl, Big Boy and Beefsteak are good varieties here, but you might want to check with feed stores, garden centers or neighbors to find the best variety for your area.
I agree with the others. I've found a handful of Epsom salts in the planting hole also helps a lot.
Mulch will stave off lots of problems. Deep watering will also help. Here in zone 7, we sometimes dig a hole beside the planting hole and set a 2 liter pop bottle with holes punched in the bottom into that hole, and backfill the dirt. Keep the cap. Fill the bottle with water and adjust the cap to allow the water to flow out the holes-- works well. However (isn't there always one of those!), this spring we were rained upon. Like I was asking folks if they'd started their own "ark" and some of my bottles floated out of the ground, funny!
If you like cherry tomatoes, I recommend Sweet 100. I've never had a problem with them (I'm in Northeastern Ohio, I think we're zone 5) and I eat them right off the vine!
I have a friend who swears by cuttings. So much that she'll buy the plants already grown or start them from seed, only to pinch off the top 6-8 inches and replant it in the ground. I've tried this, and it does work well. I'm not great with tomatoes, though, so I'm not going to be the best judge on whether or not this is THE way to go. I've had pretty good luck with this method, so she may be on to something. When you replant the cutting, though, be sure to water the heck out of it the first week or so until it stands back up. It looks really sad when you first stick it in the ground.
By Beth - MA
I water them every other day. I did get a hold of some horse manure and I made tea out of it and also I put some all over my garden. Just make sure it is dry. The wet stuff I made the tea with. Here is a picture of one of my tomatoes.
By Joyce Wis
Love tomatoes - Live in North East
I use gallon milk jugs - buried between every 2 plants or plant tomatoes stagered on wide rows and 1 jug will cover 3 plants. Fill jugs every other day or as needed. Add a little fertalizer every other week times 2 or 3 times . I like wire cages to stake with.
I also use manure. You can add a bit (like a plop!) to a 5 gallon bucket of water, and you have fertilizer for the whole season! Watering is the trick. I use black plastic under all my tomatoes, and when it's dry I water at the roots. Tomatoes need huge amounts of water, I like to count to 10 when pouring water at the root of the plant. Also, having black plastic under all my plants seems to cut down on over watering when it rains a lot. Don't forget to snap off the bottom shoots that grow near the ground, even if they have already sprouted green minis! This will cause the plant to produce better fruit on top. Staking is important, support those stems, especially when using natural fertilizer!
I purchase my plants when they are about a foot tall then pull about the first 8 inches of leaves off before planting. Then i bury the stem and root ball on its side with just the last 4 inches sticking up above the soil. When the plants grow to about a foot above the soil i put about 8 inches of mulched leaves which i gather with my bagging mower. As a result my plants produce more fruit and grow to about 8 feet tall without the aid of fertilizer.
I plant my tomatoes in the bottom of milk jugs, with another plant on top such as peppers, and eggplants, I also made two milk jugs into a self watering planter foe my strawberries, and used drink bottles to make a self watering / mini green house for the rose cuttings I'm propagating. I fed my plants used coffee grounds, and they loved it, their stems and roots seemed to double in size! Here is a recent picture of my garden.
We keep having rain everyday, so I'm only watering these every other day, as the afternoon showers really don't give them enough rain. I will have some ripe pear shaped tomatoes soon! I also use toilet paper rolls to make peat pots for my plants that I started from seed, which I wish I had started sooner.
The pepper plants are ready to put out their flowers!
I think it is agreed that consistent watering is crucial for the development of a good tomato. How much and how often you should water can vary, depending on several factors such as whether they are grown in an open garden or a container (and what type of container), whether they are mulched and with what, whether you bury jugs for water along side the plant, and so on.
A good rule that would apply under all circumstances would be 'Keep the soil consistently moist at all times, never permitting it to become dry'. How you do that would depend on your situation and your preferences.
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