How To Grow Better Tomatoes: The Tomato Gardener Rescue
Tomato Gardener Secrets
I'm determined to get it right!
I’m a very poor tomato gardener. I’ve started seeds indoors and babied the tiny starts over many weeks with grand designs of success. Nevertheless, my little darlings shriveled and died once they were planted in my raised beds.
I threw up my hands after that failed and bought good and sturdy starts from my local garden center. Still, I got only pathetic little specimens and they failed to produce a single fruit.
What am I doing wrong?
This year, I hung my cherry tomatoes (right-side up, mind you) but only got sporadic fruit that totaled less than I could count on both fingers.
Alas, I decided to do a bit of study on this and share it with you. I’m determined to get it right, and I’ve looked to the experts to make it work. Here’s the advice that I’m going to take.
Tomatoes need at least 6 hours of sun
I live in the desert, where sun is plentiful, so getting too much sun is my issue. In the Pacific Northwest and along foggy coastlines, tomato gardeners struggle with lack of sun. The solution? If your garden area can’t get dependable sunlight, then moveable patio containers or hanging tomato plants should do the trick. Apparently I should be planting Romas and Super Sweet 100s, which love hot sunny days.
My drip system wasn’t enough and I haven’t given my plants enough water. Tomatoes are thirsty little guys, and when you water them, they need to drain well, but still hold the moisture with good soil. They need about a pint of water a day for every plant. Spraying them with water is not going to create a successful plant, so the experts’ advise a soaker hose or drip system with a longer timer.
Choose the right variety
I failed this before and I won’t do it again. Experts say look for disease resistant varieties that have a V, F, or N after the name. My plants succumbed to sticky little green flies.
Use good dirt
Soil that’s been reused in your garden without amending or rotating can drain the nutrients needed for sturdy growth. Add a small handful of crushed eggshells to the soil so that the calcium will slowly leach into soil, and give your tomatoes a nice round shape.
Tomato-loving pests do not like the smell of marigolds. Too bad for them!
If you are planting in the garden rather than pots, give your tomatoes two feet of space. If you are using the bushy kind, stake them earlier rather than later. Once the tomatoes start to get big, they’ll need the stake or trellis to give them the necessary support for the fruit.
A good fertilizer like Miracle-Gro will do the job, once every three weeks. Organic gardeners prefer compost tea, and now that I have a composting pile started, I plan on using this technique. The tea is made by pouring water into a bucket with some of your compost, and then pouring off the water (hold onto the compost though!) into your plant.
Lastly, when your tomato babies have ripened, don’t put them in the refrigerator, since it ruins the flavor! Even when I buy tomatoes at the store, after one of my epic plant failures, I let them sit in a pretty wooden bowl and decorate my kitchen while they developed more flavor.