Five Tips for Growing Tasty Tomatoes
Properly Prep Spaces
When selecting spaces for tomato plants, be sure to choose an area with plenty of natural, direct sunlight, preferably for at least six to eight hours per day. If a full-sun bed proves challenging, try planting tomatoes in pots so they can be easily moved to bright spaces.
When prepping the area to plant tomatoes, dig a hole that is about twice as big as the tomato pot. Remove the native soil and mix it at a 50/50 ratio with Pike Vegetable and Flower Mix to break up the dense clay soil and allow for better root growth, adding nutrients the veggies will need to produce an abundant harvest. This will improve drainage and balance soil pH for healthy vegetables. Be sure to backfill the hole about half way with the amended soil! When planting in containers, the experts suggest using Pike Potting and Container Soil, which contains wetting agents that help retain moisture in the soil. Add a handful of a starter fertilizer, like Dr. Earth Root Zone, at the bottom of the hole and mix in. The starter fertilizer will prevent transplant shock and help roots begin to establish.
Bury and Stake Stems
When planting tomato plants, remove the bottom one or two levels of leaves and bury the plants up to that portion of the stem. New roots will sprout from the base of the stem, anchoring the plant in the dirt and ultimately providing a sturdier plant with more fruit. When planting or transplanting tomatoes, start plants out with tomato cages, especially for indeterminate varieties like Brandywine. Tomato cages are easier to insert when plants are young and will help support the tomato plants as they grow and keep fruit off the ground.
The key to tomato success is consistent water. Thoroughly soak tomato beds at time of planting and always water the soil directly rather than watering the leaves. Keeping the leaves dry will minimize the chance of fungus and disease, ultimately keeping tomatoes healthy and strong throughout the growing season. Water when the soil feels dry one to two inches down. Maintain a consistent watering schedule, as irregular watering can cause the fruit to split. Fertilize every six weeks with Dr. Earth's Organic Tomato, Vegetable and Herb Fertilizer.
Compost and Trim
Once plants reach a height of about three feet, remove the brown and fungus-ridden bottom leaves to prevent diseases from taking hold. When little sucker stems sprout from the base of larger stems, pinch them off to result in more fruit; they will just suck the energy away from the more profitable stems. While the first fruit is ripening, encourage new growth and continued fruit by spreading compost around the stem and trimming some of the upper leaves.
Green thumbs seeking more hands-on tips are encouraged to visit any Pike Nurseries store location on Saturday, April 7 from 9 to 11 a.m. for their FREE Growing Tomatoes class. Additionally, guests to any store location from Friday, April 6 to Sunday, April 8 can enjoy Tomato Time, a celebration of these seasonal favorites, where attendees will receive a FREE one-gallon tomato plant to take home with any purchase, while supplies last.
The professionals at Pike Nurseries have all the expert advice for planting a bountiful harvest of tomatoes and other fruits and veggies! For more information and care tips, please visit your local Pike Nurseries location or visit pikenursery.com/tomatoes.