Tomatoes are one of the most versatile plants a garden can have so ensuring a high yield is worth some extra precaution with your planting methods. Setting up tomatoes to be successful initially will result in less work and more fruit as the plant matures.
Starting from Seed
It is important to use seed that has been preserved properly. If seed has been dried with proper methods it will have a natural fungus on it that will aid the plant in being resistant to disease. If you have a natural source for your potting soil it will likely have mycorrhizal fungus in it. Mycorrhizal fungus is a symbiotic organism that assists plants in absorbing nutrients and water. If your tomatoes are lacking in nutrients not only will they not grow properly they can be susceptible to disease. If there is any question about whether your soil contains mycorrhizal fungus you should add the fungus when plant your tomatoes.
From Pot to Garden
It is beneficial to your plants to “harden” them off before setting them into the ground. To do this begin exposing your greenhouse plants to the outside in the warm parts of the day, with each exposure being longer until you are leaving them out at night. Before planting be sure you have the supplies you will need.
- Hoe and Shovel – Tomatoes need a deep hole with dirt pulled up around them.
- Dried Egg Shells or Organic Calcium
- Organic Fish Fertilizer
Setting up your hole is the most important part of planting successful tomatoes. You will want the hole to be roughly two times the height of your tomato. That sounds excessive; but, you will need room for the additives and to sink your plant almost to the top leaves. At the bottom of the hole crush up a small handful of dried egg shells or calcium and drop it in. Then if you are using solid fish fertilizer drop the recommended amount into the hole with the calcium. If you are adding mycorrhizal fungus be sure to put that in as well. Fill the hold until you can place the tomato into the hole with only the top three branches of the stem being level with the top of your ground.
Placing the Plant
In the pot, tomato plants may look large and fruitful so it can be disappointing if you plant them with proper depth as it will make your lush plants seem very small. Tomatoes will root out along the stem if the stem is underground resulting in a much larger root base for nutrient and water collection. So to give your tomatoes the best start they must be planted as deep as possible. Prune all of the lower stem branches leaving the top three. If you do not prune before setting it can cause rot and disease in your plant. Set the plant in the hole and gently fill in the dirt being sure to crumble any clods and remove any rocks that might cause air pockets or impede root growth. When you get to the top gently hand pat to secure the plant.
Water, Mulch, and String
Depending on the dampness of your soil, and imminent weather, will determine if you water heavily. Tomatoes do not like excessive water; but, they do need some to ease root shock. If you are using liquid fish fertilizer you need to apply that after getting your plants set. As soon as possible you will want to mulch around your tomatoes with straw or hay. Mulching helps retain water, keeps the dirt from packing, hinders weed growth, and it promotes “good bugs” that will eat the bugs that will eat your tomatoes. There are all sorts of ways to string your tomatoes. I have had almost equal success with cages, stakes and twine, or using fence panels. When considering what to support your plants with take into account the breed of tomato. If your plant will be producing large tomatoes you will need a stronger support system.