You could be growing a million combinations of things in your garden this year, but we guarantee that tomatoes will be in the mix. After all, what’s summer without wandering out to the garden to pop a few warm, juicy cherry tomatoes in your mouth or slicing up a beefsteak to pair with mozzarella and toast. And for the multitude of varieties of tomatoes there are to grow, there’s about as many ways to plant them. If you’re looking to get your best tomato harvest yet, let us fill you in on a few of our favorite tricks of the trade.
1. Don’t Plant Too Early
Tomatoes love warm weather, so let your soil heat up a bit before you plant your seedlings. A minimum soil temperature of 55 degrees F is required, though even warmer could be better.
2. Plant Deep
You’ve probably noticed that a tomato plant is covered with hundreds of tiny hairs. When these hairs come into contact with the soil, they form roots. To give your plants a more stable base and more opportunities to pull needed water and moisture out of the garden, plant your tomatoes deep, so that about three-quarters of the stem is covered. Then be sure to remove any low-lying leaves to prevent disease risk caused by soil splash.
3. Fertilize, Fertilize, Fertilize
Tomatoes take the nutrients present in the soil and turn them into delicious flavors. When you’re planting, there are multiple ways you can give the soil and your plants a nutrient boost:
- Compost: Compost, of course, is an excellent soil amendment that will add organic matter and nutrition into your soil. Before you put your tomatoes in the ground, add compost to the bottom of the hole, and then mix compost with the native dirt to fill in around the plant after its been sited.
- Bone Meal: Bonemeal is a natural slow-release fertilizer high in the protein and phosphorus your tomatoes will need to develop roots and set fruit. Add this to the bottom of the hole along with the compost before you put in your plants.
- Epsom Salts: While these aren’t a fertilizer, per se, they do help make calcium in the soil more bioavailable to your plants. Calcium helps ward off diseases like blossom end rot, which can be problematic in tomatoes.
- Other Fertilizers: It’s also helpful to add a fertilizer of your choice midway through backfilling around the tomato plant. This will help ensure there’s plenty of nutrients surrounding your tomatoes for optimum growth. Just be sure to follow package instructions, so you don’t risk burning your plants.
Tomatoes are at risk of soil-born fungal diseases, like blight, when wet soil splashes up onto the plant. To minimize the risk, mulch around your plants, creating a layer between low leaves and the soil surface. The mulch doesn’t have to be fancy—something as simple as shredded dry leaves will do.
Once your tomatoes are in the ground, it will feel like summer has officially begun. Do you have any favorite tips for getting great tomatoes? Share your thoughts in the comments below.