Guide To Growing Large, Healthy Tomatoes

Guide to growing beautiful, large, healthy tomato plants. Focuses on transplanting seedlings into the garden, pruning, supporting the branches, watering, fertilizing and the rotation cycle of the tomato plant.

Growing large, healthy tomatoes is accomplished not only by the rich soil, plenty of sunshine and water, but also through regular, thorough care and nurturing. This article will teach you how to help your tomato plants have the largest, healthiest crop you could possibly have.

Seedlings (before transplanting into the garden):

You could sow the tomato seeds in early spring indoors in a sunny warm room, and then transfer the little seedlings into separate pots once they are about 1.5 inches tall. Until the plants are 15 cm. tall, take any flowers off the plant since it should divert all its energy into root development at this stage.

Many people prefer to get the plants through a gardener in the beginning of June since they are cheap and they won't need to do the transplanting and care for the sensitive young plants. If you buy your plants from the gardener, pick dark green plants that are not much taller then 20 cm., and have a sturdy, straight stalk. Check the roots to make sure they are white, and pick plants, which don't have a large amount of flowers. These plants will have good roots since they diverted all their energy into root development.

Plant them into your garden once there is no chance of having any more frosts, (wait just two more weeks to be sure, usually the date to plant them is at the end of May - beginning of June). They should be at least one yard apart from each other to ensure they each get enough sun and nutrients. To plant them dig a hole twice the size of the pot in which your tomato plants are. Take the plants out of their pots, and make sure the roots are not in a tightly wound ball. If they are, loosen them carefully so they can branch out and grow. Place the plants into the hole and then fill the hole up with the root ball up to the same position where the stalk had the earth in the pot. Water the new plants right after planting with cold/lukewarm water with a small amount of fertilizer. Any fertilizer that has a higher level of phosphorus then nitrogen is ok, look for one that is designed for vegetables and follow the instructions on the box. Don't put an excessive amount of fertilizer on the plants since that would only harm it. Next to the plant (don't pierce the roots), push a three to five foot long wooden pole 1 foot into the ground. Then use a thick (at least 5mm thick) string to loosely tie the plant to the pole. Don't tie the string around the plant and then to the pole since this would prevent the tomato plant to grow normally. Just loop it around bot pole and plant and leave a space of at least three fingers between plant and post. This ensures that the wind won't break the small plant since it isn't used to the harsher outside climate yet.

After transplanting the seedlings:

During the next two weeks keep the plants constantly moist and check that the plant is still held up by the string. Keeping it moist is important because when the fruit is pea sized a sickness called blossom end rot could be caused if the plant goes through too much wet/dry variation. Blossom end rot causes the fruit to have a soft, rotting circle at the bottom of the fruit, which is not very desirable.

After two weeks it will become apparent that the plants have two main shoots growing. Cut all other major shoots off the plant right after the joint where they are connected to the stalk. (Usually about two side shoots are cut off at the first pruning.) Tie up the two major shoots and make sure you leave a space of at least three fingers between the shoot and the stalk.

Each week you should remove all side shoots that are not growing directly beneath a flower cluster, and the ones that don't have any flowers or small bulbs growing on them. Tie up the major branches again the same way as before and keep the plants moist at all times. This has to be done until the day you see the first few ripe tomatoes. After there are some ripe tomatoes, don't prune the plants anymore but keep the plant moist. After all, tomatoes are 98% water. Watch the plant and tie up any branches that need more support since the tomatoes tend to be very heavy. Now you should be able to have a regular harvest until the beginning of fall. Don't let the frost surprise you! Listen to radio reports carefully and make sure you pick off all the tomatoes before the first frost hits. The tomatoes don't have to be ripe, pick them all. If you store them at room temperature (15-20 °C) they should ripen normally giving you an extra few weeks of homegrown tomatoes.

If you grow tomatoes the following year, place them in a different spot to ensure that there are enough nutrients in the ground to support your plant. You rotation schedule should be like this: Year one - spot A, year two - spot B, year three - spot C, year four - spot A. This will give the ground enough time to recover. You can plant other vegetables or plants on the land in that time though. Good luck and start eating your very own fresh tomatoes. They will taste twice as good then if you bought them - guaranteed!

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