How to Grow Series

Tomatoes


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Two Weeks After Planting

About this time, the plants have had a chance to get established in their planting holes, and you should notice new growth. When that occurs, it's recommended to fertilize them with a liquid fertilizer such as compost tea, fish emulsion or seaweed extract. By this time, the soil should be good and warm and mulching is also recommended to help retain moisture and to help keep the soil at an even temperature.

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Maintenance

How to Grow TomatoesOnce the plants are about 3 feet tall, consider removing the bottom 6 inches of leaves. These leaves will likely be sun deprived and therefore more prone to fungus and disease problems, so really, you might as well remove them now.

If you see any leaves forming inside a crotch joint of two branches, remove them. These are called suckers and will not form tomatoes. They will only suck energy from the plant.

Fertilize your tomatoes again with either compost tea, fish emulsion or seaweed extract once you notice flowers forming on the tomato plants and again when tomatoes are about 1" around. I prefer to use compost tea, mainly because you can make it yourself (find out how at this link) and if sprayed on the leaves, will not only feed the plant faster, but help to prevent fungus and disease problems. Espoma Tomato-Tone Plant Food is also an excellent organic fertilizer especially formulated for tomatoes.

Make sure your tomato plants get regular and consistent watering. Irregular watering may lead to blossom end rot and cracking of the fruits. About 1-2 inches of water a week should be good enough, so make sure you supplement if you are not getting regular rainfall. Watering 2-3 days out of the week during the hot summer months, should be sufficient. Water at the base of the plant to keep the leaves dryer and disease free.

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Manipulating Flavor

How to Grow TomatoesThe variety does have a lot to do with how a tomato tastes (heirlooms are superior), but did you know that withholding water can actually make the tomatoes taste sweeter? Too much water can actually dilute the flavor, which is why you really don't want to water everyday. You also want to make sure your tomatoes get full sun. The more sun, the sweeter the flavor as well.

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Harvesting

Tomatoes are ready to harvest when the fruit has turned color completely. Pretty much all tomatoes start out green, but the variety will determine if they will be red, pink, purple, yellow, orange, striped or even a slightly different shade of green. I like to pick the tomatoes early in the morning once the dew has dried from the fruit and preferably the day after a dry day (meaning, the plants got no significant water the day before). The fruits may be a little sweeter when the soil is a little drier. I'm not sure just how much of a difference that will make, but it's something I have always done.

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Pests and Diseases

I'll be honest. I don't have a lot of experience with pest and disease problems when it comes to tomatoes, so I will refer you to a couple of websites that can provide you excellent information on that subject.

The Colorado Cooperative Extension website has a page with photos of Common Tomato Problems. A more extensive collection of pictures and problems can be found at the Texas A&M site.

I strongly believe that properly preparing the soil and keeping a plant happy and healthy will pretty much ward off most pest and disease problems. Proper preparation of the soil is key, so don't skimp when it comes to that part of the job.

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