Selecting the Tomato Transplant:
Getting Additional Supplies:
Digging and Preparing the Hole:
Dig the Hole
In your garden, dig a circular hole that is 1 1/2 to 2 feet wide and 18 inches deep. Put the dirt to the side.
Fill 1/2 the Hole
You have now provided your tomato with ample growing room for its deeper roots. The purchased garden soil will ensure the soil has the right PH for growing tomatoes. There is no need for soil testing. The moisture control formulation with help prevent blossom end-rot then can occur from uneven watering.
Fill the Rest of the Hole
Planting the Tomato Transplant:
If your tomato transplant is 12 inches tall then you will plant the first 8 inches below the ground. Simply, pinch of any leaves on the first 8 inches of the stem. Dig a hole with you hand. Remember the soil is very loose and put the plant 8 inches into the ground. Fill the hole you made by hand and admire your work. Place several shovels worth of original dirt around your tomato and spread the remainder of dug earth out around the rest of your garden.
Staking Your Tomato Plant:
Place the stakes about 6 inches from the stem on direct opposite sides of the plant. Simply put, put one on the left side and one on the right side of the plant. You will have to hammer the stakes about 2 feet into the ground to secure them. Don't worry about damaging the roots of the plant. The tomato will be fine. You are using 2 stakes because your tomato plant will become both huge with growth and heavy with tomatoes.
The easiest way to support your tomato is to tie the plants using jute, a natural brown fiber string. Jute is readily available at any garden center. Use the picture below to get an idea of how to tie the plant to a stake. Early on you will on be using one stake as shown in the picture. Over time you will need both stakes to tie off both the stem of the tomato and the branches. You are planning ahead. I suggest tying the stem off about every 8 to 10 inches.
Make sure you do NOT tightly tie any part of the stem or branch to the stake. It will choke the plant and/or damage the branch or stem. If you make a circle with you thumb and index finger you can use that as a guideline for how much space to have for the stem or branch to move when you tie it down. You will have to tie your tomato plant weekly. It not only will continue to grow over the summer but the weight of the tomatoes will cause the plant to shift. The picture gives you the general idea.
Joint Suckers/New VinesYou will have to prune or pinch your tomato. The picture below shows you another example of making sure there is space for the stem when you tie it to the stake. It also shows you where a sucker grows in the joint of the branch and stem. If you put you index finger and thumb out in the shape of an L and drop your other three fingers down to your palm, you've just created a stem and leaf. Right in the curve of you index finger and thumb is where the new growth comes out in the tomato. You don't want that growth. It will become and additional vine. Just pinch the sucker off.
Tomatoes are vines. You only want a single vine growing up the stake. The “branch” that is forming between the joints in the picture, as I said, will become another vine. Yes, it will grow tomatoes. You are pinching it off with your fingers because you are tending you tomato as one vine. One vine is all you need to have a huge plant and a bountiful harvest.
I recommend you pinch-off the new growth in the joints of the tomato plant until at least mid to late July. I typically let my tomatoes grow more wild toward the end of July. I simply tie the new vines and branches to the stakes. That is, I stop pinching off the new growth in the joints of the top 1/3 of the my tomato plants. I still prune the bottom 2/3 of the plant to prevent new vines from coming up lower to the ground.
A lot of the diseases don’t start until summer kicks in. As your tomato grows in June, it is time to start removing the bottom branches. I can’t give you an exact ratio of removal to growth. Use your eye. You want the plant to have a lot of growth to collect the sun but you have to start clipping the bottom branches of the plant. I recommend by the end of June you have at least 1 foot of space beneath your plant. You can prune the plant in stages as you see fit. I sometime go to 18 inches on taller plants. Simply cut the unwanted branch to within ¼ inch of the stem.
You can also thin your tomato plant’s upper and lower growth in August. I do recommend letting the plant grow as mention toward the end of July. That doesn’t mean you don’t eye-ball them in August and remove congestion. It is painful to cut off large branches but you do so to let air circulate through the plant. Remember you were tending to the plant. It will produce new vines and branches all along the stem. Even places you already pruned. If you can’t see through your plant to the other side or its hard to get to the fruit, then you need to prune it a bit.
Pinching Off the Growing Tip
A Friendly Warning
Mulching Your Tomato Plant:Tomatoes love the heat and need even moisture all year long. Uneven watering can cause blossom end rot and fruit cracking. The easiest way to prevent this is to mulch and water you plant following a regular routine. Use grass clippings. I find nothing better in the way of mulch. My neighbors know to bring me their grass clippings.
Simply put a fresh layer of 2-3 inches of grass clippings around your tomatoes. Spread the clippings out 2 feet from the stem of your tomato. When the sun dries the grass clipping up thoroughly, add another 2-3 inches. This might take 2 or 3 days depending on the weather and all that. You can do this all summer long. I cover my entire garden in grass clippings. Just make sure you do layers of 2-3 inches and let the grass dry out before piling on new layers. This is a great way to manage moisture in your garden and provide organic matter for the garden.
Watering Your Tomato Plant:
Mid-Summer Water Soluble Fertilizing:The time you spent preparing the hole for your tomato included ample fertilizer. I recommend a water soluble feeding every 2 weeks starting toward the end of July and ending when August is over. I use Miracle Grow. I follow the directions for 2 gallons and sprinkle it over the entire plant. This is the only time I wet the leaves. It is best to do in the morning of a sunny day. I give each plant a full 2 gallons of soluble fertilizer. I sprinkle one gallon over the top of the plant and pour the other gallon onto the ground around the base of the plant.