Get a Bumper Crop of tomatoes this year!!

Get a Bumper Crop of tomatoes this year!!

Growing tomatoes is usually not that difficult – Growing a ‘Bumper Crop’ of tomatoes… a bit more of a challenge!

A few things to remember when planting tomatoes…

When to plant!

Don’t plant your seedlings too early!  Plant a couple of weeks after the last chance of frost.  Tomatoes grow best in temperatures in the upper 70’s and lower 80’s in the day and upper 60’s at night…Tomatoes also need at least 6 hours of full sun per day…the more sun the merrier!

Choose good quality starter plants!

Starting with a healthy hardened off starter plant is essential. Sweet Valley Herb Tomato plants are always hardened off before being shipped to a local garden center near you.  Hardened off plants gives gardeners an advantage as the plants are already acclimatized and ready to be put in the ground and take what mother nature has to offer them…which we all know what she had to offer this past Spring!!

The next important thing is the soil!

Just as important as a healthy starter plant is healthy…good quality soil.  Healthy soil yields healthy plants…healthy plants will better withstand bad weather and pesky pests! So prepare a luxurious bed for your tomatoes.  It is a little extra work, but you will definitely reap the rewards!

The most important addition you will make to your soil is some organic matter.  We use an organic compost as well as worm castings.  These types of products can be purchased at your local garden center.

In clay soil the organic matter adds nutrients and helps with drainage. While in sandy soil, it again adds nutrients, helps hold the water and also gives the soil a little depth.  Organic matter is also important in encouraging the living network of microorganisms that are so essential in healthy plants and soil.

If you regularly maintain your soil, you will see yearly improvements to the fertility of the soil and will therefore have better, stronger and more  beautiful plants!

Fertilizing your plants!

Once planted in the ground it is important to make sure your starters get adequate nutrients to produce a bountiful crop. We put worm castings under our tomato plants which is a nice organic way to fertilize your tomatoes. A great organic approach would be to use a combination of compost, peat, aged manure (or the bagged varieties from the store), and organic amendments such as blood meal to create a rich soil. With this approach, additional fertilizer is usually only necessary only once or twice a season; just after the blossoms appear, and again when a plant is laden with fruit. Good organic fertilizers for this use include: fish emulsion, seaweed emulsion, and “manure tea” (manure placed in a large container, filled with water, and allowed to “steep” for about a week). Make sure to dilute any such liquid fertilizer until it is the color of weak tea, even organic fertilizers can “fry” plants if applied too heavily. The organic method of gardening also benefits the environment by not adding chemicals, that can upset the balance of nature. (Chemical fertilizers work quickly, but they also leach out of the soil quickly.) If you’re buying prepared organic fertilizers look for those with a higher phosphorus (middle) number. Phosphorus is what fuels the production of flowers, and flowers are how fruits are formed. Try to find a relatively balanced mix (5-10-5 would be okay, 5-10-8 would be better).

Pollination is key!!

It is super important to make sure your tomatoes get the pollination they need to produce a bumper crop!  This can be done in a variety of ways.  Dry windy days are perfect for pollination…but attracting bees is more of a sure thing!

Plant a variety of flowers that the bees are attracted to. This will help aid in the pollination process.  Plant the right flowers…Bees native to your area will not be attracted as much to the exotic flowers, so use flowers and heirloom herbs that bees are accustomed to.  Bees have good color vision and are attracted particularly to blue…purple…violet…white…and yellow.

Borage, Lavender and Echinacea white or purple are all great herb/perennials to incorporate into the garden to attract the busy bees!

To encourage more bees, plant flowers in clumps, and use a variety of shapes and colors suggested. This method is good to to bring a variety of bees to your plants.

Watering your plants!

Drip irrigation does the best job of getting the water where it needs to be without wetting the leaves of the plant. However, you can also drench, flood irrigate or sprinkle, generally without problems. If using a method that wets the leaves try to water in the morning, so that the leaves are dry by nightfall. 1-1½ inches of water per week is necessary for good growth.

Tip:  Pruning your tomato plant is also helpful, but not necessary.  Stay tuned for the next article on ‘How to prune your tomato plants’

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