I’m yet to meet a living soul who doesn’t like the taste of ripe, juicy tomatoes. Apart from being a culinary feast, those babies are a beauty to behold. If you grow tomatoes in your garden, then you, my friend, are blessed beyond measure. Today, it brings me great pleasure to unveil the mysteries of growing these sumptuous delights.
- Water them constantly
Tomatoes LOVE water. If you want large, healthy fruits, then you mustn’t be stingy or forgetful when it comes to watering. About 2-3 inches of water in a week would be quite adequate. Now here is where it gets interesting. It’s not just about giving them enough water; you must ensure you are giving them enough water REGULARLY. You can’t leave them and run off. They are just like little children; you must be on hand to satisfy their needs. Tomatoes can’t withstand dryness, so the soil should always have moisture. Therefore, it is imperative that you water generously, deeply and consistently.
- Don’t forget to mulch
To help retain the moisture in the soil and keep your tomatoes happy, mulching is very essential. Organic materials such as grass and straw are perfect mulch options if you live in areas with warm climates. If you reside in colder climes, then you can choose between red or black plastic mulch. Mulch should be added within 4 – 5 weeks after planting.
- Feed them regularly
When you hear the term ‘fatten up’, what comes to mind? Food, right? So, if you want your tomatoes to end up plump and luscious, there is every need to adequately fertilize (feed) them. They require lots of nutrients, chief among them being nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Your fertilizer should have a higher percentage of phosphorous than nitrogen. Phosphorous encourages fruit growth, nitrogen enhances foliage development.
- Train your tomatoes
Remember when I likened tomatoes to toddlers? Well, this particular tip proves me right. Tomatoes have a tendency to ‘laze’ and sprawl on the ground. They don’t have strong stems to support their weight and thus, must be externally supported. I believe I’m not the only one thinking: “Why, tomatoes do behave like little tots!”
Anyway, the need for support is essential and there are three major ways to achieve that: the trellis, stake, and cage systems. The trellis and cage systems are quite expensive, but need only be done once. Not so for the stake system which is cheaper but requires constant monitoring and further efforts when there is new growth.
Making a choice between these three systems must be done quickly, as tomatoes are fast growers. You don’t want your tomato fruits on the ground; an easy pick for pests and a surefire way to bring about rotting.
- Prune off excess growth
Tomatoes, especially the indeterminate varieties, are the plant version of rabbits. When it comes to foliage growth, they have no equal. Suckers spring up between branches and leaves and if not pruned on time, give birth to more suckers. If these newest set of suckers are not taken care of, they result in more suckers, and before you know it, your tomato plant is sprawling everywhere. Apart from taking up all the available space in your garden, sprawling tomato plants would not give you those lush, healthy and large tomatoes you’ve dreamed of. Therefore, pruning is necessary. However, it is advisable to leave the first two suckers appearing below your first cluster of fruits. Then remove the rest once they appear using either your hand or a handy set of pruning tools.
Growing tomatoes and caring for them is a diligent process. But at that moment when they ripen and fill your garden with their bright red colors, you would be proud of your every effort.