Mid-summer can seem excruciatingly long when you’re waiting for those first tomatoes to turn color. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to keep all of the harvest to yourself, and not share with a resident squirrel, bird or groundhog. Even if you lose a few to the local wildlife, if you grow enough, you should be completely satisfied with your tomato harvest, getting enough to eat in salads, slice up, turn into sauce, can and more. The key is making sure your tomato plants are healthy.
Tomatoes love the hot days of summer, but rain and humidity can put them at risk for contracting diseases like early blight, caused by a bacteria in the soil splashing up onto the tomato plant’s foliage, and periods of drought can encourage blossom end rot, when there’s not enough moisture in the soil for the plant to uptake calcium. Here are some tomato-care chores you should be performing throughout the summer to keep your plants thriving.
1. Trim Bottom Leaves
Keep the bottom 6 to 8 inches of the tomato plant foliage-free. These are the leaves most susceptible to soil splash, thus most susceptible to early blight. If you’ve seen your plants leaves turn yellow and die back, particularly at the bottom of the plant, this is likely early blight at work—by removing the foliage, you reduce the changes of the disease spreading to the rest of the plant, thus ensuring higher production.
2. Add Yellow Corn Meal To Soil
Yellow corn meal contains a bacteria that fights off the early blight bacteria found in soil. Add this to the soil in mid-summer and then mulch overtop to keep it in place.
Mulching is always a good idea, but it’s especially good for tomatoes because it prevents soil splash onto the plant. Use dried leaves, dried grass clippings or straw.
4. Feed Your Plants
If you desire, you can add a granular plant food to the soil around your tomato plants mid-season to give them a boost of nutrition.
5. Water Regularly
Water your tomatoes consistently—it doesn’t have to be every day, but do it enough so the soil doesn’t dry out. Your tomato plants obviously need this moisture to keep on living and producing fruit, but it also helps the plant pick up calcium from the soil.
6. Amend With Epsom Salt
If you thing you may have a calcium deficiency in your soil, add some epsom salt around your tomato plants partway through the season. While this won’t help fruits that have already been affected by blossom end rot, it will help new tomatoes going forward.