Table of Contents
Tomato Plant Care
Water frequently and intensely, at least twice a week, soaking the soil six to eight inches deep. Tomatoes do not like it when the soil dries out between watering. Maintaining a steady level of moisture in the soil will give you a better chance of preventing weeds from growing
the dreaded blossom-end rot, a small black spot on the bottom of the tomato that can eventually spread throughout the fruit.
During the summer months of July and August, the temperatures are among the hottest of the year, and in the driest months of the year, a layer of mulch (straw, plastic, grass) will help conserve soil moisture. Tomatoes require warm soil in addition to humidity. In the summers, black plastic mulch will come in handy if you live in a place where the temperatures are cool. Straw or another organic mulch will suffice for those who live in warmer climates.
When to Plant Tomatoes
Warm-season crops, such as tomatoes thrive in the sun and cannot withstand freezing weather. Since this is the case, you must avoid planting plants too early. To get the most out of your tomatoes, you’ll have to wait until late spring or early summer unless you live in zone 10, where the soil is warm enough to plant tomatoes outside in the late spring and early summer.
Tomatoes can be harvested anywhere from 60 days to more than 100 days, depending on the variety (see more about types below).
When To Transplant Tomatoes
Rather than planting seeds in the spring, most gardeners prefer to use small “starter plants” or transplants instead of sources because of their relatively long growing season requirements (as well as their late planting date).
Although many gardeners purchase their transplants from a garden center or nursery, growing your own from seed indoors makes it possible.
Choose a location that receives direct sunlight! For example, during the summer months, in a northern region, 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight would be ideal to have 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight every day in the northern areas. In the southern regions, light afternoon shade (either natural or applied, such as row covers) will aid in the survival and growth of tomatoes.
Dig the soil to a depth of approximately 1 foot and incorporate aged manure and compost. Allow two weeks for it to decompose before you plant it.
Also, select a location where tomatoes (and members of their family, particularly eggplants, peppers, and potatoes) have not previously thrived in the previous two to three seasons.
There is no better time to plant tomatoes than in spring when the weather has warmed up a bit. Tomatoes are long-season, heat-loving plants that will not survive a frost. Check out our Planting Calendar to determine when to plant tomatoes in your area.
Start tomatoes from seed indoors six weeks before the last spring frost date and transplant them outside when the weather warms. Sow seeds in small trays 1/2 inch deep, about 1 inch apart
You can direct seed tomatoes in the garden soil (1/2-inch deep) if you have a long enough growing season, but you must wait until the soil temperature reaches at least 55°F before you can do so.
The numerical formula on almost any fertilizer refers to the percentage of the three macronutrients in that product. A 5-3-4 box, for example, contains 5 percent nitrogen, 3 percent phosphorus, and 4 percent potassium. Nitrogen is essential for nourishing foliage, phosphorus for flower and fruit growth, and potassium for strong stem and root systems.
Tomatoes are obsessed with fertilizer. They are “heavy feeders” in gardening terms, which means they require a lot of nutrients. Fertilize one week before planting and again on the day of planting. They are particularly fond of phosphorus, which encourages the formation of blossoms and the fruits or vegetables that grow from them. Avoid using high nitrogen when your tomato plants have blooms because it promotes vine growth rather than fruit growth.
Tip: This site recommends liquid and granular plant fertilizers available online at Planet Natural to ensure gardening success. There is a wide selection of organic fertilizers available at this company, so you can find the right one to meet your needs.
A word about what it means for a fertilizer or soil amendment to be “organic”: many soil additives commonly referred to as “organic” are inorganic. Gypsum, lime, greens, and sand are all rock products and are not, chemically speaking, organic because carbon is not their primary component.
However, in common gardening parlance, the term “organic” refers to how the amount of processing the material has undergone, how toxic it is to the earth, animals, and humans, and, most importantly, whether it is derived from petrochemicals such as oil. All additives suggested here have been minimally processed, are non-toxic to the earth and its inhabitants, and are not derived from petrochemicals.