10 Tomato Growing Tips for a Bountiful Harvest

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Tomatoes are one of the most popular garden vegetables (technically, fruits) to grow. Gardeners prefer them because they also happen to be one of the easiest garden plants to grow. 

These juicy, tasty, red fruits are a delicious addition to sauces, salads, and other dishes. Straight from the garden, they offer an especially flavorful experience. Easy to grow and delicious? No wonder they appear in so many gardeners’ vegetable patches. 

10 Tomato Growing Tips for a Bountiful Harvest

You can choose to grow tomatoes in buckets or canisters, or you can grow them in the ground alongside your other vegetables. Whichever you choose, you are likely to succeed with these sturdy and easygoing plants. 

In order to enjoy the most bountiful harvest possible, as well as ensure thriving plants, you may want to avail yourself of some of the most common tips and tricks for growing tomatoes. For your viewing, and gardening, pleasure, we have included some of them here. 

1. Warm the soil before planting your tomatoes

Many garden vegetables cannot grow in cold soil, and tomatoes are no exception. You need to wait to plant your tomato seedlings until the danger of frost is past and wait until the soil temperature has reached at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit on a regular basis.

You can warm your soil up a little faster by covering your garden with plastic a few weeks before planting. The plastic will trap the heat and provide your plants with a warmer spot to grow. Your plants may even reward you with a slightly earlier harvest. 

2. Give your tomatoes enough room to grow

Room for tomato growing tips

Most commonly, gardeners purchase young tomato plants from the store and plant those instead of starting them from seed. 

When you go to plant your tomato seedlings, do not be deceived by their small size. They are going to grow, and fast. Give them enough space to spread out by planting them 30 to 48 inches apart. Space rows about 48 inches apart as well.

Giving your seedlings ample space isn’t just about making sure the plants do not end up overcrowded. It is about preventing the spread of disease among your plants. Happy, healthy tomato plants need to be spaced out

3. Plant the stems underground

Obviously, the roots of the tomato plants need to be underground. However, if you want sturdy plants that can withstand less than ideal conditions, you should also plant part of the stem under the ground.   

In order to do so, remove any branches from the lower part of the seedling. Then, dig a small trench and lay the seedling sideways in the trench. Cover the seedling up to the first set of leaves. 

It may feel odd to plant your tomatoes in this manner. However, the tomato plant will develop roots along the buried stem. As a result, it will enjoy a more robust root system that will make it a hardier plant overall. The plant remaining above ground will quickly adjust and grow upright, just as if you had planted it that way to begin with. 

4. Protect against pests while planting

If there is one thing that will take down your tomato plants with frightening speed, it is pests. Early on, cutworms in particular can destroy the tender shoots of your tomato plants. 

You can take steps to ward off those bugs by wrapping part of your tomato plant stems in paper while you are planting

Wrap the paper around the stem so it covers the stem one inch above the ground, and one inch below the ground. Staple the paper ends together. After a few weeks, the paper will rot away, but by that time the stem will be strong enough to withstand cutworm attacks. 

5. Mulch your tomato plants with red plastic

This may also seem like an odd tip. There are many materials you can use to mulch your tomato plants in order to keep moisture in and weeds out. Newspaper, manure, and compost are just a few ideas. 

However, studies indicate that red plastic (not any other color) can increase the amount of fruit your tomato plants produce. You could enjoy up to 20 percent more fruit simply by using red plastic to cover the ground after planting your tomatoes. Those are the kind of results that make a gardener’s heart happy.

6. Don’t prune your tomato plants

As your tomato plant begins to take off in the growth department, it can be tempting to trim the leggy shoots in order to encourage the formation of fruit. 

Pruning, however, is actually a bad idea for most tomato plants. In fact, pruned tomato plants produce less fruit than unpruned ones. Often, this is lack of fruit production is because gardeners cut off stems where the fruit needs to grow. You might enjoy an earlier harvest with larger fruit, but you won’t get as much of it. 

In addition, unpruned plants produce better tasting tomatoes. The growth of the leaves promotes sugar production in the fruit. The shade from the leaves leads to slower ripening and more sugar production as well. 

Be patient and enjoy the more bountiful harvest that comes later in the year from unpruned plants.  

7. But do remove suckers from your plants

One exception to the no pruning rule is the growth of suckers between the main stem and the branches of the tomato plant. You do not need to remove these suckers. However, doing so when the plant is young can encourage better growth and a more bountiful harvest.

8. Water evenly

Like many garden plants, tomato plants require an abundant supply of water as they grow. Plan to give them about an inch or two of water a week.

The secret to effectively watering tomato plants is to do so evenly. This means avoid giving them the entire inch of water all at once. 

Instead, plan to water your tomato plants two or three times a week. Also make sure to water early in the day so the stems and leaves can dry in the sun. Doing so prevents end blossom rot and cracking that can destroy your tomatoes.

9. Plant companion plants alongside your tomatoes

Companion plants for tomato growig tips

There are a number of plants that contribute to the health of tomato plants when they are planted together. There are many of these types of plants. Some of them include the following:

  • Marigolds
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Cucumber
  • Mint
  • Peas
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Chive
  • Basil
  • Squash

These companion plants help out the tomato plants in a variety of ways. Some of them, for example, keep certain pests away, while others improve the health or the flavor of the tomatoes. While you do not have to grow all of these plants alongside your tomatoes, adding a few to your vegetable garden can help create a healthier environment for your tomatoes. 

10. Support your tomato plants

There are two main types of tomato plants: Determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomato plants grow more like a bush. As a result, they do not grow as high as indeterminate tomato plants and will only ever reach a certain height. 

Indeterminate tomato plants, on the other hand, keep growing as long as conditions are favorable. They require support to prevent the stems from drooping to the ground, where they can fall prey to fungus and other diseases, as well as insects and rot. The weight of the tomatoes can even break the branches and stem if the plant does not receive proper support. 

To prevent these issues, stake or cage your tomato plants. The stakes or cages will provide support that will keep your plants upright and thriving. As a result, you will lose less fruit and enjoy a healthy, producing tomato plant all season long. 

Conclusion

Tomatoes are a great choice for your garden, whether you are a seasoned grower or just starting out. In order to get the most out of your garden, follow these 10 simple tips. From planting to harvesting, they should help you achieve healthier, more vibrant plants. 

Rose Hawes

Rose Hawes

A former master gardener, I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing and have been published in magazines such as Woman's World, Birds and Blooms, and Writer's Digest. I've also created hundreds of gardening articles for online sites such as Dave's Garden, eHow, and SFGate.

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