Growing tomatoes is an easy art. From the largest beef-steak to the sweetest cherry to the most flavourful heirloom tomatoes, the gardener’s constant quest for the best, biggest and brightest specimens is often rooted in the coveting and collecting of favourite varieties and seeds. And whether your seeds are something you bought at your local garden store or ones that were passed down through generations of gardeners, making them grow and bear tasty fruit is easy if you follow these 10 guidelines.
1. Let the sun shine on!
As lovers of light, tomatoes require at least six hours of direct sunlight—preferably in the afternoon—for optimum performance (but eight hours or more is even better). And as seekers of heat, it’s important to plant only after there’s no risk of frost.
2. Dig deep
In a rich, organic, well-drained soil that’s slightly acidic (pH 6 to 7), place your tomatoes slightly deeper than they were in their pot, laying the plant itself sideways and half-buried in a shallow tunnel.
3. Know your variety
Look to the tag to learn the important details. Are your tomatoes determinate or indeterminate? Determinate tomatoes grow as a bush and ripen all at one time; indeterminate tomatoes are produced on a vine that grows continually, producing tomatoes from late summer until frost. The latter requires more staking, more support and, generally, more space. Also find out if the variety is resistant to disease. Look for VFN to indicate that your tomatoes will be resistant to Verticillium wilt (V), Fusarium wilt (F) and root-knot nematodes (N).
4. Strip the stems
Remove suckers from the tomato vines by pinching them between your fingers. Suckers are a cluster of leaves in the spot where the branch and the stem meet and should always be removed, as they don’t bear fruit and take energy away from the plant. When your plant grows to a height of 65 to 90 centimetres, remove its lower leaves from the bottom 25 centimetres of the stem as they’re the first to develop fungus problems.
5. Mix and mulch
In a vegetable garden, mulch tomato plants using clean straw (don’t use hay—it contains weed seeds). This helps to retain moisture while also reducing the amount of water and soil that splashes back onto the foliage or the tomatoes themselves. Back-splashes of water transfer soil-borne pathogens onto the plant, leading to disease problems.