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7 Things You Need To Know About Tomatoes

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

Seems like almost every day, I get asked: “What do I have to do to be successful with my tomatoes?” So here are a few things we need to know.

  1. Tomatoes need FULL sun! Anything less and their productivity goes down. If you only get five hours of good, strong, midday sun, you’ll still get something but not as much as if you had all day long sun. Sorry, I don’t make the rules, Mother Nature does.
  2. If you had a disease or anything weird going on last year, DON’T PUT ANOTHER TOMATO THERE THIS YEAR! Diseases can linger in the soil for up to three years. Plant a cucumber or green beans or squash, but not another tomato or tomato family member (potatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos). Same goes for this year. The very minute you notice something off about a plant, try to figure out what’s going on. Sometimes the only remedy is to get it out of there. Yes, it hurts to yank a plant up that has little baby tomatoes on it, but it hurts a whole lot worse when it spreads to all of your tomato plants and you have to pull them all up.
  3. I don’t care how much compost you added to your soil, it does not replace quickly used up nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorus. That is what fertilizer is for. I use TOMATO-TONE because it’s a good organic product that contains a little extra calcium and tomato family members appreciate that. And, guess what? They don’t arrest you for using it on things other than tomatoes so you can use it for all of your veggies, herbs, even flowers. It’s a good, solid plant food.
  4. Yes, you can grow tomatoes in containers, however, it depends on the size of the container. Your average tomato winds up between six and ten feet tall. That requires a decent amount of root room. I tend to go no smaller than an 18-inch diameter pot. When using a container, always use potting soil–never garden soil.
  5. Tomatoes are technically vines. Count on having a trellis, cage, or otherwise tie up tomatoes.
  6. Tomatoes don’t set fruit well when temperatures are over 92 during the day with nights over the mid-seventies. The pollen count degrade. Excessive humidity can compound the problem by making the pollen clump together. Since tomatoes are usually pollinated by wind, clump pollen can cause big problems. Bees can step in and help, so plant some bee-friendly around your tomatoes. Otherwise, we need to wait it out. When temperatures get friendlier, they’ll begin setting fruit again.
  7. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, TOMATOES DO NOT LIKE TO GET THEIR FOLIAGE WET! Water at the base of the plant with a hose or a soaker hose. Never, ever plant tomatoes near in-ground sprinklers.

One last thing, people are always asking me which tomato they should plant.  If you’ve always planting Better Boys or Super-steaks, try planting one variety you’ve never heard of before.  I always planted Better Boys and Big Boys because that’s what my dad grew.  One year, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and I tried an odd-sounding heirloom tomato called “Cherokee Purple.”  Oh, my word, where had this incredibly rich-tasting thing been all my life?

We’ve got a great selection of heirloom, regular, and cherry/grape tomatoes in right now.  Come in and let us help you select a great tomato.

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