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Top Tomato Growing Tips

<a href = "#crowd">Dont Crowd Tomato Seedlings</a><a href = "#light">Provide lots of light</a><a href = "#fan">Turn a Fan On</a><a href = "#soil">Pre-heat Garden Soil</a>

 

Growing tomatoes is often the impetus for starting a vegetable garden, and every tomato lover dreams of growing the ultimate tomato: firm but juicy, sweet but tangy, aromatic, and blemish free.

Unfortunately, there are few vegetables that are prone to more problems than tomatoes. The trick to growing great-tasting tomatoes is to choose the best varieties, start the plants off right, and control problems before they happen. Start here with some time-tested tomato growing tips to ensure your tomato bragging rights this year.

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Dont Crowd Tomato Seedlings

If you are starting tomatoes from seed, give the seedlings plenty of room to branch out. Yes, that means thinning the seedlings to one strong plant per cell or small pot. Snip the weaker, smaller seedlings in favor of the best grower. Crowded conditions inhibit their growth, which stresses them and leads to disease later on. Transplant tomato seedlings into their own 4-inch pots shortly after they get their first set of true leaves.

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Provide lots of light

Tomato seedlings need strong, direct light. Days are short during winter, so even placing them near a sunny window may not provide them with sufficient natural light. Unless you are growing them in a greenhouse, your best option is to use some type of artificial plant lighting for 14 to 18 hours every day.

To ensure the tomato plants grow stocky, not spindly, keep the young plants only a couple of inches from fluorescent grow lights.1 You will need to raise the lights (or lower the plants) as the seedlings grow. When you're ready to plant them outside, choose the sunniest part of your vegetable garden as their location.

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Turn a Fan On

Tomato plants need to move and sway in the breeze to develop strong stems. That happens naturally outdoors, but if you start your seedlings inside, you need to provide some type of air circulation. Create a breeze by turning a fan on them for five to 10 minutes, twice a day. That small amount of time will make a big difference.

Another option is to ruffle the tomato plants by gently rubbing your hand back and forth across their tops for a few minutes, several times a day. It's a bit more effort, but their wonderful tomato scent will rub off on you as a bonus.

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Pre-heat Garden Soil

Tomatoes love heat. They won't really start to grow until both the soil and air temperatures remain warm. You can speed things up in the soil by covering the planting area with black or red plastic a couple of weeks before you intend to plant. Those extra degrees of soil warmth will translate into earlier tomatoes.

You can lift the plastic before you plant, but some research contends that red plastic mulch has the added benefit of increasing your tomato yield.

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