It is often the desire to grow tomatoes that causes a vegetable garden, and every true tomato lover dreams of getting a crop of perfect tomatoes. Strong, but juicy. Sweet, but sour. Flavorful, devoid of any flaws, perfect. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find vegetables that would be more problematic to grow than tomatoes. The secret of success in obtaining truly delicious fruits is the choice of the best varieties, timely planting and prevention of any problems before they arise. To get closer to your goal, start with these ten tips, which we discuss below.
1. Don't overcrowd pots with seeds
If you start growing tomatoes from seed, make sure each seedling has enough room to grow, develop and branch out properly. Overcrowded seed pots and seed tubs make it difficult for tomato plants to grow, which can lead to plant diseases later on. As soon as the seedling has its first leaves, you should transplant it into its own pot with a diameter of at least 10 cm. We will talk a little more about how to deal with tomato seeds in order to get a great harvest below.
2. Take care of enough light
Tomato seeds need plenty of direct light. In winter, when the days of light are rather short, even placing pots next to a window on the sunny side of the house will not be quite enough for the plants. Unless you are growing seedlings in a greenhouse, provide them with artificial light for 14-18 hours a day.
For the plants to grow strong and healthy, with a developed root system, keep them at a distance of 5 cm from the source of light. As the tomatoes grow, you will either have to lower the pots or raise the lamps. When the seedlings are finally ready to be planted outside, use the sunniest area of your vegetable garden for this purpose.
3. Place a fan next to the seedlings
The tomato seedlings need to sway in the wind for their stems to strengthen and become strong. Outdoors this happens naturally, but if you are growing them in a greenhouse, you will have to artificially create an air circulation effect. Give the plants a breeze by blowing them from a fan for 5-10 minutes, twice a day. It does not take long, but the effect of such simple actions is impressive.
If you do not like the variant with a fan for some reason, you can "ruffle" the seedlings by hand. To do this, move your hand from side to side through the tops of the plants for a few minutes, a few times a day. It also takes a little more time, but as a bonus you will have the beautiful scent of young tomato seedlings with you for a long time to come.
4. Warm the soil in the vegetable garden
Tomatoes are very fond of heat. They will not grow normally unless the soil and air are warm enough. To stimulate this process, you can prepare the soil in advance: cover it with ordinary or mulch film a couple of weeks before you plan to transplant your seedlings into it. As a result, you will get a few extra degrees of heat in the soil, which will allow you to get an early harvest of tomatoes.
Before planting the plants you can remove the film, although the mulching version makes sense to leave: such a film will only contribute to the rapid and healthy growth of your tomatoes
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5. Bury the stems of the seedlings deeper
Bury the plants in the garden deeper than it was in the pots: so that the entire lower part of the stem is in the ground until the first leaves. Tomato seedlings placed this way will be able to grow roots around the stem. And the more roots, the stronger and healthier the whole plant becomes.
You can either dig deep enough holes, or simply place the seedlings in the ground obliquely. They will quickly straighten out and reach for the sun, and the lower parts of their stems, meanwhile, will remain in the soil. The main thing is to be careful that the plant doesn't get caught in the supports or buried stems of another plant.
6. Mulch the soil after it warms up
If you are not going to leave mulch film on the soil surface (as suggested in tip number 4, cover it with mulch after it has more or less warmed up. Mulching conserves water and prevents the spread of disease among plants, but if you do it too early, it will block the sunlight and make the soil cooler. When it's warm enough outside both day and night, you can start covering the soil with mulch to retain moisture.
7. Tear off old leaves from tall plants
When your tomato seedlings are about 15 cm tall, tear off the leaves from about the first 5 cm of their length. These are the very first and oldest leaves which, as the plant grows, get less and less sunlight and fresh air. Because they are close to the ground, they are very susceptible to pathogens. Therefore, they can easily be affected by fungal diseases. If you remove them in time, the likelihood of such infestation is greatly reduced. To protect against fungal diseases, it is not unreasonable to spray the plants every week with compost tea.
8. Prune plants to get more tomatoes
Remove side shoots that develop between two established branches. These will not bear fruit, but will only take away extra nutrients from the plant.
Don't be afraid to prune your plants in principle. For example, you can tear off a few leaves so that the sun can better illuminate the ripening fruit. But also remember that leaves are responsible for photosynthesis and creating sugar, which affects the taste of your future tomatoes. The fewer leaves, the less sweet you will get.
9. Water tomatoes regularly
When the fruit is just forming, water the plants abundantly and regularly. Irregular watering - such as skipping a week and trying to "catch up" on lost time - will cause the seedlings to rot and become damaged. The entire area of the vegetable garden planted with tomatoes should receive at least 2.5 cm of water per week, and even more during hot and dry periods. If the plants begin to look sluggish and dry, water them extra.
When it comes to fruit ripening, watering can be eased slightly. Reducing moisture levels will retain more sugar in the plants and make the fruit sweeter. Also, if you water too much, tomatoes may stop blooming or even lose fruit.
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A lot of vegetable growing depends on the whims of the weather, but some aspects are still within human control. There are two basic types of tomato plants. Deterministic tomatoes reach a certain height and then start fruiting abundantly. They usually bloom early enough, and if weather conditions are not too unfavorable, you will have no problem getting your crop.
But the big, juicy tomatoes with rich flavor that we all love so much belong to the indeterminate group. This means that their plants grow tall without much restriction (tomatoes are in principle vines, which is what you should grow as upwardly growing plants). Indeterminate tomatoes like to grow long, stretching closer to sunlight before they begin to bear fruit. So they may well not bear fruit for the first 1-2 months - this should not embarrass you.
But if you are impatient, you can clamp (pinch) the stem tips of index tomatoes in early summer to stimulate them to flower. This same trick is useful to use at the end of the season when you want your last tomato crop to ripen faster.
Marie Iannotti, "Top 10 Tips for Growing Tomatoes".
Botanichka: Marie Iannotti is aauthor of "A Beginner's Guide to Growing Vegetables - The 100 Easiest, Most Delicious Vegetables for Your Garden," "Vegetable Gardening Guides," and a regular contributor to gardening magazines, including - Organic Gardening and HGTV.
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