How to Get Lots of Tomatoes
Tomatoes Are a Garden Favorite
Tomatoes are a gardener's favorite plant to grow in the vegetable garden. Here you will find some hints and tips to help your tomatoes do better than ever before.
Choosing the Variety of Tomatoes
How well your tomatoes grow will depend a lot on the variety you choose. You need to pick one that will do well in your growing zone and will mature early enough that most of the crop has been picked before your area starts having frost. Southern gardeners don't need to worry about this so much. I usually grow some Better Boys here in Zone 5.
For early tomatoes in the North, many grow Earl Girls. Early Girls are good for early fresh eating but have a high liquid content for canning. This year, I am trying a new variety called 4th of July, and I'll share how they do. Check the days to maturity before purchasing seeds or plants.
The more disease resistant the plants are the better. Most seed catalogs and the sticks you find at greenhouses will give you this information. You need to be sure to check them. The new hybrids are resistant to most diseases.
Paste tomatoes are best for canning things like spaghetti sauce or even for making juice. You will be able to cook down the tomatoes quicker. If you have ever canned sauce, you know it can take hours if you choose a juicy tomato variety.
I have been growing tomatoes for years. Since I have read lots of gardening magazines, I've picked up a few tips that do help tomatoes do better.
My favorite one and the one with the best results is to take the plant and strip all of the bottom leaves, leaving about six leaves on the plant. Leaving four is fine if it is a small plant. Either place this in the ground sideways in a trench you have made or deeper than you would otherwise. Cover the stem to within just around an inch of the leaves. It will look like you have a tiny plant, but it will give you big dividends in the end. Your plant will grow quickly, and you will have a big plant in no time.
Why does this work? The plant will grow more roots along the stem. The better the roots, the bigger your plant will be. The bigger the plant, the more tomatoes you will get.
I have heard by using this method, you can get giant tomato plants with unbelievable numbers of tomatoes. This technique is one I haven't tried myself, but plan to in the near future.
Once you plant your plant, put a small PVC pipe right next to it and place it deep enough in the ground that it won't later topple and it will reach the deepest roots. Then when you water the plant, pour the water right into the PVC pipe. You can do this when you fertilize also. The roots will get all of the water and nutrients right where they need it.
When the plants are young, you may need to water from the top since the roots aren't that deep yet.
Combining these methods should give you enough tomatoes to share with the neighbors and still have plenty for fresh eating and canning.
Amend the Soil
If your soil is sandy or has a lot of clay, you will need to add some type of organic matter. The best product to use is fresh dirt from the compost pile. If you don't have this, get some composted manure from the gardening center. Don't worry, the manure is already composted and smells fine. Work it into the soil before you plant.
Growing in Pots
After moving, we did not have a garden worked up yet and I tried growing tomatoes in pots. I learned that the bigger the pot the better. Let your plant have plenty of room to root.
I also learned not to put the tomatoes on the deck near the light. The moths that develop into tomato worms are attracted to the light at night. You will end up with tons of tomato worms. Luckily, I had a Springer Spaniel that loved to eat them. These things grow huge fast and will eat your entire plant within a day or two.
Another secret I learned is to place the pot on cement. This works here in the north, but may not be a good idea in the south. Tomatoes love heat. The cement would heat up in the sun and keep the pot warm. Water often when planting in a pot.
Caring for the Tomato Plants
Your tomato plants should get full sun for at least six hours of sun. Plant in an area that gets good drainage.
Be sure the plants get enough water. Two inches a week is good. Keep the watering consistent. Until the plants are established, you may need to water more often. If they show the slightest sign of wilting, get out the watering can immediately.
Dealing With Tomato Pests
Keep your eye out for tomato hornworms. I consider these the worst pest a tomato can have. I would check every day if possible. These worms can strip a plant in a day or two, and they'll look just like skeletons afterward. The worms are the same color as the plants, so they may be hard to see. If you don't want to remove them with your hands, just use a stick and knock them to the ground and stomp on them.
There are many other pests that your tomatoes may get. So many, that entire sites are dedicated to dealing with them. This government site has a long list that you can check if your leaves show any damage from insects or disease.