It is never too early to think about planting your tomatoes in your backyard. Check out these timeless tomato-growing tips to get the most out of your tomato plants this Spring.
Sun, Light & Water requirements
Since tomatoes love heat, you should expose them to adequate sunlight. This process begins with the soil before planting. Cover the planting area with a red or black plastic for about two weeks before planting. This warmth will make the tomatoes grow fast and healthy giving you an early harvest. Covering the soil also causes weeds to grow fry them before you plant. You can even use the plastic to mulch to increase the yield.
The seedlings need strong, direct light to aid in growth. Since winter has very short days, placing the seedlings near a window may not be adequate unless you are growing them in a greenhouse. You can use artificial light to mimic daylight for 14 to 18 hours each day. Keep the young seedlings a few inches from the artificial light source to ensure they grow stocky stems. The light will require rising as the plant grows and when you are ready to plant them outside, chose the sunniest location in the garden.
Water regularly and deeply as the fruits develop. Avoid irregular watering. When you miss a week and make up for it the next week, you will cause cracking and rot of the blossom end. Give it at least one inch of water each week, however, during hot and dry spells, you can water more than an inch. As soon as you realize the plants appearing wilted most of the day, give them water. As the fruits start ripening, you can ease on the water. Lessening water forces the plant to concentrate its sugars to give you better flavors. Too much water at this stage will make the plant wilt, become stressed and drop their fruit.
Hardiness Zones for Tomatoes
Most gardeners in cold climates are these days familiar with the 11 plant hardiness zones that indicate the average minimum winter temperatures for each zone.
Tomatoes can grow well in hardiness zones 1-10.
Those in zone 1 should expect temperatures to go as low as -50 degrees F whereas those in zone 11 rarely experience temperatures under 40 degrees F. These zones are the only to that don’t really accommodate tomatoes (although it is possible to grow tomatoes in a well-managed greenhouse in zones 1 and 11).
Basic Tomato Plant Care
Tomatoes aren’t terrible tricky plants to grow, but you should definitely follow some basic guidelines.
Use mulch: Mulching helps conserve moisture and keeps soil-borne diseases from splashing onto the plant. You can use straw, black plastic, shredded leaves, thick newspaper layer or grass clippings to mulch your tomatoes. Using red plastic improves fruiting by 12-20 %.
Pruning: many farmers are undecided on whether to prune or not to prune and how much. According to Old Farmer’s Almanac, pruned plants bear larger tomatoes earlier but fewer fruits. Over pruning will cause a yellow sunburned patch then blisters. Unpruned plants yield twice as many fruits than pruned ones though takes longer to ripen. Pruning is known to lower the flavor. But if the foliage is so thick, there is no adequate air flow hence the need to clip some of the leaves, but not too much.
Feeding: every gardener has one or two tricks up their sleeves on feeding their tomato plants. If you want to know how to grow tomatoes, you should learn from the experts or try out till you get your special recipe. Some use crushed eggshells or bonemeal in the plant hole and a pinch of Epsom salt. Sue liquid seaweed or fish emulsion or compost as a side dress if you must add fertilizer. Keep off high nitrogen fertilizers as this can cause little or no fruit on your plants. Use some phosphorus for fruit production, especially if your plants are purple.
If you’re all set to grow some tomatoes of your own this season, take a peek at this handy infographic, which is a nice, quick, visual reference for tomato growing.
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