[Nameplate] Overcast ~ 52°F  
High: 61°F ~ Low: 48°F
Monday, May 2, 2016

Home-grown tomatoes

Monday, May 4, 2009

The weather is getting to be very nice. Spring has sprung, and nothing sounds better than getting out and working on this year's garden. Just the thought of fresh homegrown tomatoes is enough to make anyone put a few plants in the ground.

Tomatoes are by far the most popular garden plant. Tomatoes right from the garden are a summer pleasure that most gardeners look forward to. They can be grown easily in the garden or even in pots on the patio or deck.

However, it can be very disappointing when something goes wrong with tomato plants that were planted in the spring. A little planning can help avoid many of the common problems that people have growing tomatoes.

Getting the variety of tomato you want can be a challenge. They are available in many varieties and it can be confusing to choose.

You will want to determine what the use for your tomato will be. If you want slicing tomatoes, most varieties will work well. If you want to make sauce, you will be looking at a sauce variety such as the Roma. If you simply want the largest one on the block, you will be looking at the Beefsteak or Beef Master types. If you want to grow tomatoes in a patio pot you may want to try a cherry tomato or a tomato that has been bred to grow in patio pots.

You will have the best luck with types that are more disease resistant. Disease resistant varieties help make sure you have a healthy crop of tomatoes. If you want to plant heirloom varieties, I would suggest planting them in a different part of the garden than you planted them in last year. This will help with avoiding diseases.

You want to make sure that your planting site is well drained and in full sun. A full sun location is a place that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight during the day. Tomatoes will grow in many different soils but prefer well-drained slightly acidic soils.

You can also grow tomatoes in a patio pot. Make sure that there is ample room in the pot for root growth and that the pot has drainage holes. Remember that tomatoes are very sensitive to cold temperatures and will die if there is a frost, so if cold weather is forecast, you will need to protect the plants.

Tomatoes are generally transplanted into the garden rather than directly seeded. It is easy to start them indoor yourself or you can buy them at the local garden center. Make sure you pick healthy dark green plants.

Do not plant them near Black Walnut trees. These trees produce a chemical called Juglone that will scorch and kill your tomato plants.

Most of the time tomatoes should be staked or caged. Staking or caging offers support to the plants when they are carrying heavy fruit that can break the plant limbs. Staking and caging will also help with air circulation and help avoid plant diseases. Staked and caged plants can also be planted closer together, around 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart. Plants that are not staked or caged vine on the ground and the fruits are more susceptible to disease and pest damage. Also, if you do not stake or cage plants, you need to plant them 3-4 feet apart to give them enough room to grow.

When fertilizing, take care not to use high nitrogen fertilizers. These fertilizers will encourage foliage growth and your fruit set will not be good. Instead, use a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 or 6-10-4 per 100 sq. ft. if you haven't had a soil test done to determine exact soil recommendations. I recommend that you get a soil test once every three to five years to help your soil remain healthy.

Your tomato plants will need about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water a week. Making sure that the water is consistent and the soil is not allowed to dry out for long periods of time will help ensure healthy plants and good fruit sets. Mulching around the plants will also help keep weeds down and help the soil retain water.

I hope these tips will help you grow the best tomatoes this year. Good luck and good growing!

For more information please contact the Purdue Extension, Ann Delchambre 765-653-8411 or email adelchambre@purdue.edu