About the SFMGA

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Basics to Planting Tomatoes

Choose a variety that will perform well in your area. The easiest way to do this is to purchase seedlings from a knowledgeable local nursery or garden center. Knowing which varieties work well in Santa Fe climate is the best way to start.

Choose the right place to plant tomatoes. These plants will require at least 6 hours of full sun and rich fertile soil to grow successfully. Scout out your yard, keeping in mind how the sun moves across the sky and how shade from buildings, sheds, carports and trees moves throughout the day. Even the worst soil can be amended with compost, fertilizer and tomato plant food to provide a successful environment.

Tomatoes like plenty of room, at least a foot and a half in all directions. Keep this in mind while you are considering number of plants and location.

Planting Instructions:

Dig a trench at least 1 foot deep. Amend the soil by dumping in equal amounts of compost/fertilizer and soil. Add the recommended amount of plant food. Mix well, keeping the soil loose and friable without large air pockets.

Look at your plant. Pinch off all leaves except for the top cluster (usually 3-6 leaves).

Dig a hole in the amended soil deep enough so as much of the stem as possible is under the soil. The more stem you get under the soil, the better the root system will be. Backfill the hole with soil.

Water slow and deep, allowing the water to soak in slowly. Add a cage or stake to help support the plant, as it grows taller. It should be at least six feet tall and driven about 6 inches into the ground, making sure the stakes are well out of the area of the root ball. Ground cover, like mulch or leaves, can be layered on top of the soil drying out in between watering.

Tomato Growing Advice

Tomatoes take about 12 weeks to grow from seeds to the blossom stage and another 8 weeks to produce ripe fruit. They want overnight temperatures consistently above 55 degrees or protection from cold.

Care instructions:

For the first week, water every other day, making sure it's a deep and slow watering. After that, water once a week, deep and slow. Whenever you water, pull any weeds and survey your plants for any pests.

As the plant grows, you may have to tie the plant to the stake or cage with a bit of yarn or twine, to help provide more support, especially when it begins to bear fruit. Add plant food as directed, making sure to water well after application. Tomato plants are voracious feeders so don't skimp on feeding. When the plant begins to produce, check every other day for ripe fruit and to make sure pests are not "snacking" on your reward.