How Do You Take Care of Tomato Plants?

Mar. 17, 2021

There is a reason why tomatoes are the number one vegetable in the home garden. The flavour of tomatoes on the vine is unmatched with typical grocery store types.

Tomatoes are a warm weather vegetable and sun worshipper!

In the north, tomato plants need at least 6 hours of sunshine a day. 8 to 10 hours is preferred.

In the south, light afternoon shade (natural or applied, such as row cover) will help tomatoes to survive and flourish.

How long does it take to grow tomatoes?

This is one of the most common questions we get. The exact 'days to harvest' depends on the variety and can range from 60 to over 100 days.

In addition, tomatoes are a warm season crop that cannot be warmed and cannot be frosted, so they should not be started too early in the ground. In most areas, the soil is not warm enough to grow tomatoes outdoors until late spring and early summer, except in Zone 10 (autumn and winter crops).

Because of their relatively long growing season requirements (and late sowing dates), it is possible to plant small 'starters' or transplants rather than seeds. Choose young tomato plants from a reputable nursery. Good quality starter plants are short and stubby, dark green, with straight, strong stems that are nearly pencil-sized. They should not have yellowing leaves, spots or stress damage, nor should they have flowers or fruit.

Growing tomatoes from seed

As stated above, due to the long growing season for a warm-weather crop, many gardeners purchase starter tomato plants from a nursery.

However, tomatoes can be direct-sown in the garden if the soil is at least 55°F. Note that 70°F soil is optimum for maximum germination within 5 days. Be certain that your grown season is long enough to bring the plants to maturity. See your first fall frost date.

Or, you can plant tomatoes by tomato seed indoors for a head start. Sow seeds a ½ inch deep in small trays 6 to 8 weeks before the average last spring frost date.

Harden off your own seedlings for a week before transplanting them in the ground. Set them outdoors in the shade for a few hours on the first day. Gradually increase this time each day to include some direct sunlight.


Planting transplants

Transplant your seedlings or nursery plants after all danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature is at least 60°F. Please see our planting calendar for suggested transplanting dates.

Place tomato stakes or net boxes in the soil at planting time. Placing and caging allows the fruit to grow away from the ground (to avoid pests and diseases) and also helps the plant to stay upright.

When transplanting tomatoes, add a small amount of organic tomato fertiliser or bone meal (a good source of phosphorus) to the planting hole.

Never apply a high nitrogen fertiliser such as recommended for lawns as this will promote luxurious branching but can retard flowering and fruiting.

When sowing seedlings, pinch off some of the lower leaves. These are two ways of setting seedlings in the soil.

Place each root ball deep enough so that the bottom leaves are just above the surface of the soil. The roots grow underground throughout the plant stem. Plants are spaced 2 to 3 feet apart. Crowded plants will not get enough sunlight and the fruit may not ripen.

Alternatively, place long, long grafts in a 3- to 4-inch-deep trench on their sides. Bury the stems until the first set of true leaves. Roots will grow along the buried stems. If you plant in this way, consider setting up four tomato plants in compass positions (north, south, east and west). This structure allows you to fertilise and water the plants in the middle.

Remember to leave enough space for the plants to spread out.

Water well to minimise impact on the roots.

If you want to get more information about tomato seeds,please contact us.

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