Tomato Growing Tips

Black Cherry Tomato

One almost avoids giving instructions on growing tomatoes since there are so many tomato growing aficionados out there—tomato culture is part of almost every gardener’s DNA. I see a lot of nice caged tomatoes when I drive around and snoop on other people’s gardens a bit. Yes, you can bury the stems horizontally at transplant, that’s a good one. Also, you can put a rock next to the biggest plant to keep it warm and pick off the axillary shoots, all good tricks! Here’s what I think is most important:

Chadwick’s Cherry Tomato

Start indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Use pure compost for your starting soil–tomatoes are heavy feeders.  Thin to one seedling per pot.  Keep warm and in bright light.  Run your hand over the top of the seedling from time to time, which will flex the stem, in order to strengthen the stem and keep the plant from getting leggy.  Don’t start too early and have them make flowers before transplant—a common mistake!

Once the ground has truly warmed up, transplant outdoors at 4 foot centers (tomatoes need lots of light to develop fruits).  Use organic compost under the plant at transplant and around the stem. Once the plant gets to a foot or more tall, put a cage around it to support growth and keep fruit off the ground.  Clearly this is more important for the leggy, indeterminate types but even determinates do better with caging. Staking is almost always a waste of time, use cages. Water infrequently and deeply (watering too often makes for watery, tasteless tomatoes). Allow to ripen on the vine before harvest.