Master Gardener William Moss is all about tomatoes in this video offering tips for the growth of great tomato plants. The famous saying, “tomato, tomah-to” is just the beginning of different ways to refer to this lovely fruit, which is also known as wolf apple or love apple. In Moss’ opinion, the language maters less than the tomato itself, and he has a point. Who hasn’t plucked a tomato off the vine and eaten it right then and there, juicy and perfect? There are few fruits that are so different when you grow them yourself. Supermarket tomatoes, especially in northern regions, taste of nothing but cardboard, as they’re not allowed to ripen by themselves on the vine; but grow your own and you’ll think it’s a different food altogether! Not only does it look and taste better when you pick it off the plant, but it has higher nutritional value then, too.
But how do you do it? Growing tomatoes and keeping the plants healthy all season doesn’t just happen by itself. Good tomato plants need care and nurturing.
You can grow tomato plants directly in your garden itself, or else in pots; they can thrive either way. The pots may give you more control, however, so if you’re a beginner, you might want to consider that way to go. Put regular soil in the bottom quarter to third of the pot, then add in some rich potting soil from your local garden center. Put your plant in, and surround it with the potting soil, and top it off with some fertilizer, also available in convenient large bags from your garden center. When you first put the tomato plant in, give it a good and thorough soaking.
Water’s very important to tomato plants. In fact, the first thing to think about in terms of maintenance is consistent watering. A tomato plant needs an inch of water a week. But too many people make the mistake of putting it all in at once! After that first good soaking, you want to water your plants gradually every day. The consistency is important in terms of protecting the plant. If you don’t have consistent watering, then you can be inviting problems like skin-splitting and cracking, and blossom-end rot.
It’s hard for some people to understand, but regular pruning is also essential. If your plant is putting out anything that’s not a tomato, then some of the nutrients and moisture are bypassing the fruit altogether. So you have to pinch off the ends (that if left alone will develop flowers). You’ll find these “suckers” at the end of the branch—it’s essentially a sprout at the tip—and you want to pinch it off before it becomes another branch itself. You want the plant to concentrate on ripening your tomatoes, not sending out more branches and developing flowers on them! A good gardener will redirect that energy to the right place by being ruthless with the rest of the plant.
Supporting the plant
Make sure that your tomato plants are supported throughout the season. Everyone starts them in a cage, which is of course the right thing to do; but as the season develops, so does the plant, and it will escape or grow beyond your initial cage. So you need to do something to offer the whole plant the support it needs. You may need an additional cage to do this.