It is spring and a young gardener’s thoughts turn to tomatoes. Rodney has wonderful memories of standing in the warm summer sun in his grandmother’s garden and eating tomatoes right off the vine. Good memories, but the reality can be even better if the tomatoes that you plant are planted correctly and vines are tended to produce the best fruit.
- Select a good site with full sun and with soil that drains well.
- Blackland soil can be amended by mixing in compost, not sand, in the top 4-6 inches of soil. Mix a good balanced fertilizer into the top three inches, following the directions on the bag.
- Buy healthy plants 6-8 inches tall.
- Prepare for staked or caged plants by planting at least 3 feet apart.
- Plant in the evening or on a cloudy day to prevent drying out too quickly.
- Plant into holes 3-4 inches deep and before planting fill the hole with water and let it soak in. Plant each transplant slightly deeper than where it is growing in the pot it came in. Remove the bottom leaves off the plant (about 1/3 up) and lay the bottom in the hole and cover with soil so that only about 2/3 of the plant is above the soil. (think like the letter “L”)
- Water your new tomatoes slowly and deeply to encourage good root growth.
- You will probably have to water every day initially but they will be more water secure over time. Do not allow them to wilt.
- Mulch around the plants with compost, leaves, or hay to prevent weeds and slow water loss.
- If you plan to stake your tomatoes put the stake in shortly after planting to prevent root damage.
- Once you begin to see fruit about 1 inch in diameter begin fertilizing every 3-4 weeks with a level tablespoon of fertilizer worked into the soil and water in.
Happy gardening and watch for future information on co-planting to control weeds and pests and information on pruning your tomatoes to encourage production.
If you would like to ask Rodney a gardening question his email address is RodneyRabbit1@gmail.com.