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How to Grow Tomatoes That Will Make Your Neighbors JealousAugust 26th, 2021 by
Tomatoes are a staple of a variety of meals and a great snack on their own. They can be expensive at the grocery store but growing them at home is an easy and inexpensive alternative. Growing tomatoes is easier than you think. Whether you have a large backyard garden or a planter on your porch, you can grow your own.
In this article, we will discuss just how great tomatoes are. We will give you easy-to-follow steps on how to grow tomatoes at home so you can incorporate them into meals whenever you would like.
Supplies To Grow Tomatoes at Home
While it is quite easy to grow tomatoes at home, you will need to do some prep work. Here is a list of what you will need to get started.
- Tomato seeds or seedlings
- Soil, either in bags or your own mix of ingredients (see below)
- Large container with drainage holes and saucer underneath for catching excess water.
It’s important to note that the container can’t be metal because that will keep the soil too cold. You can use large plastic bins and cut your own holes.. You can also use tall narrow buckets if you have limited floor space.
Be sure to provide a container that has plenty of room for potential growth. One plant will need a container that is at least 1 square foot, preferably 2 square feet.
Garden vs. Planters
If your home has the space, you may choose to grow tomatoes in a backyard garden. You have the option to grow them directly in the garden soil or use planters within the garden. There are pros and cons to each, discussed below.
Pros of Growing Tomatoes in Your Garden
- More soil variety options compared to planters
- Better drainage than planter
- If the garden is fenced, it provides in protection from insects, animals and wind
Cons of Growing Tomatoes in Your Garden
- Difficult to relocate if you decide to change location
- May require staking and caging the tomato plants
- Additional fertilization may be required
Pros of Growing Tomatoes in Planters
- Cheaper alternative compared to full backyard garden plot
- Planters easier to move around
- Less maintenance because there is no weeding or need for insect protection/fencing (unless desired)
Cons of Growing Tomatoes in Planters
- May still need stakes and cages if growing in a pot with no natural barriers around it
- Planters have less soil options than garden plots do. This can affect how well tomatoes thrive.
It’s important to only use a high-quality potting mix to plant your tomato seedlings, regardless of which option you choose for planting. If you are unsure about what type of soil is best for your location/soil conditions, then research local gardening forums where people share their knowledge.
Where To Get Tomato Seeds
It’s easy to order seeds from online garden websites. Be sure you’re purchasing heirloom, open-pollinated varieties because these produce fruit that is more natural and better tasting than hybrids.
Keep in mind that you’ll need about 20-25 plants if growing tomatoes in a garden plot. If using planters, then this number can be reduced by half because the vines will sprawl outwards rather than upwards like when planted directly into the soil.
When To Plant Tomato Seeds
The best time of year for planting warm-weather vegetables, including tomatoes, is during early spring, depending on how cold it gets where you live. For example, start them indoors around April and transplant outside once temperatures are warm enough (at least an average of 70 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you live in a colder climate, then wait until mid-late August to plant them outside. Be sure the soil has warmed up first. Planting too early can result in low yields and poor-quality fruit because tomatoes need sunlight throughout their growth cycle.
What If You Don’t Have Time to Start Seeds Indoors?
In this case, it is best to buy tomato seedlings from your local nursery or garden center. They have living plants for sale starting in the spring, depending on where you are located.
When choosing a plant, be sure there aren’t any disease signs on the leaves before planting. Signs of disease can include wilted leaves, signs of rot or yellowing of the plant.
How To Plant Tomato Seeds
Tomatoes are long-season, heat-loving plants that won’t tolerate frost, so it’s best to set them into the garden as transplants (young plants) after the weather has warmed up in spring. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to plant your tomato seeds.
Thoroughly moisten the seed-starting mix, and then fill the containers to within 1/2″ of the top. Firm the mix but don’t compact it.
Place two or three seeds into each small container or each cell of a seed starter. Cover the seed with about 1/4″ of soil and gently firm it over the seeds.
Water to ensure good seed-to-mix contact. You can use a plant mister or just dribble a stream of water over the top. You don’t need to soak the soil. You can just moisten the top layer.
Place the pots in a warm spot or on top of a heat mat. At this point, the seeds don’t need light.
Keep the mix moist but not soaking wet. If your seed-starting system has a greenhouse top, use it to help hold moisture. Or you can lay some plastic kitchen wrap over the tops of the pots.
Check pots daily. As soon as you see sprouts, remove the covering and place the pots in a sunny window or under grow lights, keeping the lights just an inch or two above the tops of the plants.
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Tips for Growing Tomatoes
Follow these tips for better results when growing tomatoes at home.
More Sun Equals More Fruit
Aim for seven hours of sunshine a day. Plant to give your plants room to grow, too, planting seedlings 30 to 48 inches apart, with rows set 48 inches apart. This will let light into the lower portions of the mature plants, improve air flow and help prevent disease.
Timing is Everything
Whether you start your own seedlings or purchase them, tomatoes need warmth. Wait until soil temps are consistently over 60 degrees Fahrenheit before planting outside. If the weather is still iffy, protect tender seedlings from cold with row covers or plant protectors.
Tomatoes will root along their stems. With leggy transplants, dig a trench, add a slow-release fertilizer, and lay the stem sideways, bending gently upward. Snip or pinch off the lower branches and cover with soil up to the first set of leaves. This extra root growth will produce a stronger, more robust plant.
Water and Mulch
Tomatoes need a lot of water, about an inch a week. A blanket of mulch — anything from shredded pine bark to grass clippings and composted leaves — will keep the water from evaporating in summer’s heat. A soaker hose is an efficient solution; just position the hose in the garden and pile mulch up and over the hose. Learn more about mulch.
Growing tomatoes can be a fun and inexpensive alternative to buying them at the grocery store. If you choose to grow your own, be sure to follow these simple steps for success. Remember, the most important things for tomato plants are sunlight, water and room to grow.