Tomato plants (Solanum Iycopersicum) are the first choice for many vegetable gardens as these edible plants are comparatively easy to grow. But not all people know the correct ways to grow and care for tomato plants. With their vibrant colour and delicious texture, tomatoes have secured an important place in the vegetable gardens and the dishes of the world.
Just like every other plant, tomato plants also need proper care and maintenance to reach optimal growth. From selecting the right variety to providing necessary growing conditions it is important to know what’s best for your plants. And in this plant care guide, we’ll try to cover and provide every detail for better growth of your tomato plants.
Choosing the Right Plant:
It is important to choose the plant you want to grow for better tomato plant care. Many factors can affect this decision such as growth habits, care routine, and flavour. The world of tomato plants has two classified varieties: Determinate and Indeterminate.
Determinate: This variety of tomato plants produces small fruits and their compact growing habit produces all fruits at once. These are perfect for container gardening or for someone with less space. This variety is mainly used to make sauces. They can be easily canned and preserved.
Indeterminate: This variety of tomato plants produces fruit continuously throughout the season. Therefore, they need more space and support during their growing period.
Another reason for choosing the right tomato plant variety is that they are divided according to the time they will take to ripen. Tomato plants are divided into three categories- early-season, mid-season, and late-season. So choose accordingly.
Create a Planting Site:
The next step in growing healthy tomato plants is creating a suitable planting site for them. Create a well-prepared soil bed with the necessary nutrients, drainage, and environment for tomato plant care.
Here are some tips to prepare the planting site for tomato plants:
- Remove any weeds or debris from the planting area.
- Loosen the soil with the help of a garden fork or a tiller.
- Mix manure or compost with the soil to increase its nutrients.
- Level the planting site with a rake to create an even bed for tomato plants.
Tomato plant care requires at least 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight when grown outside. More sunlight will result in better growth and fruit production. If, growing indoors make sure to provide artificial light to tomato plants for 14 to 18 hours every day. To avoid leggy plants place young plants close to the lights and as they grow bigger.
Tomato plants thrive in well-draining soil with a pH range of 6.2 to 6.8 so check your soils pH before planting. Use necessary organic matters such as compost or peat moss to adjust the pH level of the soil.
Planting Tomato Plants:
Plant tomato plants at the right time when the danger of frost has passed in your growing area and the soil temperature is at least 60℉. For planting these plants you have two options you can either start by planting seeds or purchase developed seedlings from a nursery.
Make sure to provide proper spacing when planting tomato plants as they need air circulation and good sun penetration. It is recommended to keep a distance of at least 2 to 3 feet for determinate plants and 3 to 4 feet for indeterminate plants.
When planting seedlings bury them a few inches deeper than they were in their containers. This encourages root growth. Water the plant gently after planting around the roots to remove any air pockets.
Provide support such as stakes or cages to indeterminate tomato plants at the time of planting. Doing this prevents any damage to the plant and ensures vertical growth for better airflow and tomato plant care.
Watering Tomato Plants:
Tomato plant care requires watering them deeply and regularly during their growing season. Irregular watering can cause problems like cracked fruits and blossom end rot. So make sure to keep a tight schedule to water your tomato plants.
For better tomato plant care make sure to water at the base of the plants and avoid watering the leaves as wet foliage can lead to fungal diseases. Use a water hose or drip irrigation system.
Water the tomato plants deeply to promote deep root growth. Shallow watering only results in surface root growth and can cause drought stress so water at least 6 to 8 inches deep in the soil. But make sure to avoid over-watering as it can lead to many diseases.
Pruning is very necessary for tomato plant care as it ensures optimal growth and reduces the risk of diseases. So it is important to some pruning techniques as not all tomato plant varieties require extensive pruning.
Pruning Determinate Tomato Plants:
Determinate variety of tomato plants has a compact growing habit so they don’t require much pruning except just removing diseased or old leaves.
Pruning Indeterminate Tomato Plants:
These varieties require more pruning comparatively as they benefit from it. Make sure these things:
- To stop the plant from growing uncontrollably pinch off the top tip after it has reached a desired height of 4 to 5 feet.
- Remove the lower leaves at the bottom of the stem as the plant grows.
- These are the oldest leaves and are most prone to diseases.
- Prune suckers, also known as side shoots or auxiliary shoots grow in the space between leaves and stem. Wait till the suckers are at least 2 to 4 inches in height then remove them by pinching them off the plant.
Regularly monitoring your plants for suckers and pruning unwanted foliage improves air circulation, keeps your plant healthy and clean, and diverts your plant’s energy in producing more flavourful fruits.
Pest and Disease Protection:
Just like other plants, tomato plants are also susceptible to many plant diseases and pest infestation. So it is better to have knowledge about the possible threats to your plants and ways you can treat and prevent them. Protecting your plants is an important step in tomato plant care.
Some common tomato pests are spider mites, aphids, caterpillars, and whiteflies. Inspect your plant regularly for any sign of infestation such as discolouration, distorted leaves, and the presence of insects around the plant.
Protect your Plants from Pests:
- Incorporate natural pest predators in your outdoor garden such as dragonflies, ladybugs, and lacewings.
- Try companion farming, growing plants such as marigolds and basil can help repel many pests and attract beneficial, pollinating pests.
Protect your Plants from Diseases:
- Make sure to regularly water the plants and avoid overwatering and wetting the foliage to prevent fungal diseases.
- Provide enough space between plants and try to choose disease-resistant varieties.
- Rotate your tomato plant’s crop every year to minimize the risk of soil-borne diseases.
Harvesting and Preserving Tomato Plants:
The harvesting of tomato plants depends on whether you planted them early, mid, or late in the season. Early-season tomatoes rip within 40 to 70 days, mid-season tomatoes in 60 to 70 days, and late-season tomatoes within 80 to 100 days. Harvesting these plants is also an important step in tomato plant care.
To check if it is the right time to harvest your tomato plants you first need to check their ripening. Tomato plants come in various shapes, sizes, and shades of colour. So before picking them consider these things-
- Check the firmness of the tomatoes. Ripe tomatoes would not get mushy under gentle pressure.
- The colour of the plant should be adequate for its specific variant.
- Ripe tomatoes have a natural shine or gloss.
- Ripe tomatoes also produce an earthly smell.
While harvesting use clean tools and make sure to not damage other parts of the plant. For preserving tomatoes consider making salsa, tomato sauce, or whole canned tomatoes. You can even cut and dry them in the microwave to enjoy dried tomatoes.
Tomato plant care is important to know if you are growing them. And we hope that you learned a complete tomato plant care routine so you can grow healthy and flavourful plants. Tomato plants can be a great addition to any vegetable garden and are not very difficult to grow. So with this newfound knowledge make sure to grow these amazing plants.
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