Top Tomato Tips: When Size Matters
Grow big, beautiful, heavy weights
Grow the big ones
Growing Big Tomatoes
This year, I'm going to grow some big tomatoes. The kind you slice for tomato sandwiches because one tomato slab covers the entire slice of sandwich bread. Grow the kind of tomato that wins the neighborhood “biggest tomato” contest. I've grow heirlooms, paste tomatoes, hybrids, cherry and grape tomatoes, and last year I grew mostly black tomatoes.
Add plenty of organic matter: shredded leaves and paper, and generous helping of compost. Then, water in, or work in some 50% diluted fertilizer. Now the soil is ready and waiting. It is moist but not wet.
I've chosen varieties that are known for producing large fruit. I'm growing heirlooms, indeterminate s that are known for large, heavy vines. There are plenty of disease resistant hybrids to choose from, but I am also going for that rich flavor of old fashioned tomatoes.
Stakes and cages
Be prepared to support vines loaded with heavy fruit. Choose sturdy stakes or big tomato cages. The plant stakes and cages go in as the little tomato is transplanted into the garden. Put these supports in early so has not to damage the roots.
Encourage the big tomatoes, giving them plenty of room. Crowding tomatoes will not lead to a bigger harvest. Pound for pound of produce, your big tomato plants need 3 feet of space between them to grow the best harvest. Giving you plants some space and air circulation also lowers the risk of disease.
Prune the "sucker" shoots, normally found where a leaf is attached to the main stalk. Pruning will limit fruit setting so the plant makes fewer fruit that are larger. This is also a secret to getting ripe tomatoes a few days earlier.
The heaviest tomatoes are vine ripened
Tomatoes are 95% water
Tomatoes need lots of water to grow and develop fruit. They need a steady consistent 1 to 2 inches of water every week. Rain water is best, but if this amount is not received as rainfall, then you must supplement that amount.
Tomatoes are 95 percent water. Deluges of water may cause Blossom End Rot. Remove those fruit. Strive for consistent watering. Soak the soil thoroughly when watering, A lot of light watering will encourage a shallow and weak root system. Water the soil, not the plant. Directing the water to the soil and not to the fruit will reduce the chances of soil born diseases.
Fertilize, but not too much
Too much fertilizer will result in a lush green tomato vine. Over fertilizing will not get you the really big tomatoes you are hoping for. Side dress the plant, or add fertilizer after the appearance of several mid size tomato have appeared. Fertilize the soil, not the foliage. Fertilize again after you pick your first ripe tomato and again a month later.
The folks who tell you to fertilize every week, sell fertilizer. Your tomato plant just does not need that much fertilizer if you have good, healthy soil. If you are using granular, pelleted or liquid fertilizer, work it into the top inch of soil, if it is not likely to rain.
BLTomato is bigger than the slice of bread
Water saving mulch
Black plastic warms the soil and is helpful for early plantings. Red plastic mulch has proven to slightly increase production. Use a 2 to 4 inch thickness of organic mulch to prevent weeds.
The first few weeks after planting, do not mulch. Wait for the soil to warm up before applying mulch.
Mulch to reduce evaporation and prevent weeds from taking water and nutrients meant for the tomato plant. Use straw, shredded leaves, grass clippings, newspapers, plastic. The important thing is to conserve moisture and prevent soil from splashing on the fruit.
Tomato fruits should be allowed to completely ripen on the vine and picked before they begin to soften. Get the best tomato color and flavor when average daily temperatures range between 65° and 90°F. Those 100 degree days will halt blooming, but will resume when the heat wave breaks.
If you are aiming for the big tomatoes, please leave a comment and share your success.