Ready, Set, Grow!

Juicy, tart, sweet, and still warm from the sun: if there was ever something worth growing in the home garden, tomatoes are certainly at the top of the list. And the time to plant is now. Whether you are growing in the ground, in containers, or in a raised bed, ready your soil, order your plants for pick up at the SFC Farmers' Market (or just come browse--several farmers have them for sale), and get ready to grow! Read on for 10 tips and strategies for a successful crop of homegrown tomatoes this summer.

  • Know your varieties--tomatoes are either determinate (meaning all the tomatoes on the plant will produce and ripen at the same time, great for canning or preserving) or indeterminate (meaning the tomatoes will produce and ripen continually until the plant dies). Most nurseries and farmers offer varieties that are adapted for our growing conditions.
  • What grows together, goes together--plant basil as a companion plant to tomatoes in the garden or raised bed.
  • Tomatoes need full sun--that's at least 6-8 hours per day.
  • When planting, bury the stem, leaving just the top third of the plant above ground--a strong root system will grow directly from the stem, encouraging vigorous growth and good production through the season.
  • Water deeply but infrequently--soaking the plants and allowing them to dry out between watering, rather than more frequent surface watering prevents blossom end rot and healthier plants. Water at ground level and keep water off leaves to help prevent fungus and disease.
  • Pinch off the suckers--these adorable little side growths that develop between the stem and the main branches divert the plant's energy away from producing fruit, so remove them regularly throughout the season.
  • Make sure plants have plenty of support--use tomato cages or trellising for indeterminate vining varieties to keep branches from breaking and so they don't take over your garden.
  • Stagger plantings--plant tomatoes several weeks apart to stretch out your harvest over the growing season.
  • When the first tomatoes begin to ripen, work some compost around the plant near the stem and trim the uppermost leaves to encourage growth and more production.
  • Trouble in paradise? No worries--follow this link to troubleshoot problems and address quickly.