Last updated on April 11th, 2013
Provide Adequate Space. Set plants about 18 inches apart. Tomatoes need room to grow, and space for air to freely circulate.
Water Wisely. One-to-two inches of moisture per week is sufficient; provide this via a slow-running hose set at the base of the plant. Overhead sprinkling, unless it comes from Nature, is to be avoided. Wet foliage invites late blight, an insipid fungal disease.
Feed for Flowers (not Foliage). Tomatoes enjoy food, but beware too much nitrogen. Nitrogen will only encourage lush foliage, not fruit-making flowers. When I feed tomatoes, I give them the same high phosphorous mixture that my African violets, geraniums, and other flowering houseplants enjoy. Feeding begins when plants are a foot tall.
Provide Support. Tomatoes are vines, and need support of some kind in order to keep fruit off the ground. Most gardeners rely on wire cages for support, but I refuse to use them. Usually, the wires are poorly soldered on; furthermore, the contraptions are far too short for tall, indeterminate varieties. I depend on a 7-foot tee-pee trellis to provide both height and stability for the exuberant growers. I use green velcro tape to tie vines loosely to the trellis, as pictured above.
Sever the Suckers. To encourage a higher yield, pinch off suckers. Suckers are energy-robbing offshoots that emerge between a tomato plant’s main stem and its leaf axils. If you want more tomato plants, simply stick these suckers in soil. They quickly grow their own set of roots. More details and photos.
Remove all Volunteer Potatoes and Tomatoes. Potatoes, if forgotten in the garden after last year’s harvest, can quickly spread diseases to this year’s tomato-crop. Ditto for volunteer tomato seedlings that sprout in the compost pile or garden. Be safe, and remove these potential threats the moment they appear.
Hope for Sun. Last but by no means least, hope for a long, sunny summer. Tomatoes are tropical travelers that revel in long hours of direct sunlight.
If, despite your good care, your plants fail to flourish, if growth seems stunted or flowers are too few, check over these tips for healthy tomato-growth. Briefly they are deep planting, deep watering at root level, high phosphorous-feeding, sufficient support, sucker removal, removal of volunteer potatoes and tomatoes, and finally, full-day sunshine.
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