Blevins: Producing the best tomatoes – Bristol Herald Courier

Tomatoes are valuable garden plants in that they require relatively little space for large production. Each standard tomato plant, properly cared for, yields 10 to 15 pounds or more of fruit. Hopefully the growing season will be in full swing now.

Tomatoes do best when planted in a well-drained, loamy soil, medium-rich in fertility, in a sunny location. Growers should ideally start with a stocky plant, about 6 to 10 inches tall, and plant deep enough till only two or three sets of true leaves are above the ground. Plants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart and 3 to 4 feet between rows. Since they are considered a heavy feeder, broadcast 2.5 to 3 pounds of a 10-20-20 or 5 to 6 pounds of a 5-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet. Do not overfertilize.

For easier management, tomatoes should either be staked or grown in cages. Since they are off the ground, fruit rots are reduced, fruit is kept cleaner, spraying is easier and may be required less, and harvesting is much less work. Stakes 5 to 6 feet in length should be used and driven into the ground about 1 foot, 4 to 6 inches from the plant. Tie the vine loosely to the stake about every 10 inches as it grows with twine or cloth.

Each plant should be pruned to one or two main stems. At the junction of each leaf and the first main stem, a new shoot will develop. If plants are trained to two stems, choose one of these shoots, normally at the first or second leaf-stem junction, for the second main stem. Remove all other shoots, called suckers, weekly to keep the plant to these two main stems.

Growing tomatoes in wire cages is one method popular among gardeners because of its simplicity. Cage-growing allows the tomato plant to grow in its natural manner but keeps the fruit and leaves off the ground. Be sure cages have at least a 6-inch spacing between wires so that you can get your hand inside to harvest the tomatoes. If tomato plants in wire cages are pruned at all, once is enough; prune to three or four main stems.

Diseases such as early and late blight and/or bacterial leaf spot or speck can be problems. Call your Extension office for control recommendations.

Phil Blevins is an agricultural Extension agent in Washington County, Virginia.

Read more here:
Blevins: Producing the best tomatoes - Bristol Herald Courier

Related Post

Comments are closed.