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Growing healthy tomatoes in backyard gardens is a very popular vegetable to grow. In this article I will show you how to start tomatoes from seeds, how to transplant into your garden soil, what organic fertilizers to use and then how to maintain them to grow delicious juicy tomatoes.
Growing tomatoes is probably the most popular fruit to grow in a garden and for good reason, not only are they delicious to eat right off the vine, they are so useful in many different ways. It seems that each year, growing tomatoes is different.
But one year the vines are loaded with bright red juicy tomatoes and then the next year you are doing everything you can think of to even grow healthy tomatoes.
Over the years, I’ve kept a garden journal of tips and tricks I’ve tried. Some failed while others were a success. I’ve compiled for you a list of my best tips that have worked for me over the years.
How To Grow Healthy Tomatoes Successfully
Learn The Different Tomato Types
Before you begin growing tomatoes, you will need to make a first decision. Whether to grow determinate or indeterminate types:
Determinate tomatoes grow to be about 3-4 feet tall and then stop growing. They will then start putting all their energy into flowering and setting fruit. Determinate tomatoes set fruit all at once and then die. Which makes this type a great tomato for canning.
Determinate tomatoes are also a good choice to grow in containers or small spaces.
Roma’s is my favorite determinate tomato to grow. It is a meaty type tomato that is great for making spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce or just canning whole. And they are great for not taking up a lot of space in raised beds.
Indeterminate tomatoes are exactly the opposite. They don’t stop growing and producing until killed by frost. They can actually, if you are not careful, get completely out of hand.
Meaning that since they continue to grow and produce, indeterminates will need to be trellised and supported. They also will need to be pruned to keep control of them.
These tomatoes will produce all season for enjoying fresh vine ripe juicy tomatoes.
If you are beginner at growing tomatoes, I would recommend you choose a determinate type to begin.
Know Your Planting Zones and Frost Dates
Knowing when to start seeds indoors will depend on both your planting zone and frost dates. You can find your zone by taking a look at this USDA Plant Hardiness Map and then the Farmers Almanac is an easy way to find the frost dates for your area.
How To Grow Tomatoes From Seeds
You can purchase tomato plants from a local garden center, but if you are growing several, this can get pretty costly. There is a much more frugal way for growing huge and healthy tomatoes.
You can start tomato seeds indoors. They should be started indoors 6-8 weeks prior to last frost in your area.
You can build an inexpensive grow light system, to be even more successful. Also, to be more successful, choose the best tomato varieties that will grow well in your zone.
A good seed company catalog will describe best growing conditions for each variety they sell. Here is a list of my favorite organic seed companies that have great selections.
RELATED: Take the guesswork out! Use the easy formula worksheets in The Canning Garden Workbook (printable) to figure out how much to plant, for canning, to feed your family for a full year!
Transplanting Tomato Seedlings Outside
When planting other vegetables you only need place the roots the depth of the pot into the soil, but to grow healthy tomatoes you want to plant much deeper.
How deep do tomato roots grow? It may sound very strange, but dig a hole as deep as your plant is tall. Yep, you read that correct. Dig the hole as deep as your plant is tall.
All those little while “hairy tendrils” on the stem are actually roots. So the deeper you plant the seedling, the more vigorous and strong the root system will grow.
Fill hole with soil amendments, listed below, remove the lower leaves leaving the top one-third of leaves intact. And then place approximately two-thirds of the plant in the soil, water and fill the hole.
Roots will grow from those tiny white hairs you see on the stem making the plant healthy and stronger allowing it pull more nutrients from the soil. A tomato plant with a deep root system is more able to withstand drought conditions and hot weather in the summer heat.
So, for example, if you have an 8 inch tall tomato plant, you will plant it 6 inches deep in the soil. This will leave the additional 2 inches above ground.
How Far Apart To plant Tomatoes
Tomatoes don’t like to be crowded. The ideal spacing for tomato plants is 28 inches apart. This gives them adequate room to grow and stretch to the sunlight.
Note: Good healthy soil is important when growing strong tomatoes, do don’t overlook what’s in your soil before adding amendments.
Organic Fertilizers For Planting Tomatoes
- Organic Vegetable Fertilizer – to add nutrients to the soil
- Bone Meal – for aiding in flowering to set fruit
- Worm Castings – healthy microbes and bacteria for the soil
- Crushed Egg Shells for Added Calcium (aid to prevent blossom end rot)
- 2 cups of Compost Tea (make your own) – produce healthy plants
- And 2-uncoated, crushed aspirin (any brand) – boost immune to fight of tomato diseases
Tomatoes like to be in 7-8 hours of full sun and need about 2 inches of water per week.
So when choosing where to start your garden or set your containers, make sure it is a location they will get enough sunlight.
Tomatoes are susceptible to disease, such as Leaf Curl, Blight and Blossom End Rot. So keeping them watered and fertilized are important.
Care and Maintenance – How To Fertilize After Planting
Tomatoes are heavy feeders. To keep them healthy and growing, maintain the water they need each week. And then use the same organic fertilizer 2 weeks after planting, and then about every 2 weeks from then on.
If there were any tomato growing secrets, this would be it. Be sure to feed with an organic fertilizer when transplanting, then about 2 weeks later and then once a month until they set bloom. Then add additional organic potassium and phosphorus to help with blooming and setting fruit.
Doing this will help you tomatoes grow strong, healthy and produce a lot of juicy delicious tomatoes.