Secrets to Growing the Best Organic Tomatoes at Home

Secrets to Growing the Best Organic Tomatoes at Home

1) Good soil: Tomatoes require a PH of around 6. If you’re unsure about the PH of your soil, you may want to get a PH Meter or send a sample of your soil off to get tested. If the PH of your soil is not at the proper level, you may still get great plant growth; however, your tomato fruit will rot at the bottom. You can lower the PH of your soil to make it more acidic by adding lots of organic mater such as compost, and, or you can amend your soil with peat moss. I don’t suggest using sulfur based amendments as they only lower the PH for a short period of time and require several applications.
2) Getting your tomato starts: It’s best to start your own tomatoes from cuttings or seeds in a good organic potting mix. This will ensure that your tomatoes get the best nutrition from early on and reduce the likelihood of transplant shock. Start your seedlings indoors, about 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date, to give your tomatoes a head start and increase your chances of a better harvest. If this is not an option, or you have a longer growing season, you can purchase tomato plants from a nursery, big box store, or direct sow your seeds into your garden.
3) Planting Your tomatoes: Plant your tomatoes in a sunny location. Always plant your tomatoes deep. I like to plant mine a foot to a foot and a half deep.This enables the plant to grow a bigger root system, and access water deep within the ground. Alternatively, you can lay the tomato plant on its side, cover a foot to a foot and a half of the stem with soil, and the plant will put out a large root system. Remove the leaves from the portion of the stem that you bury.
4) Watering Your Tomatoes: Water your tomatoes deep; especially if you planted them deep. To ensure the best growth and prevent things, such as, blossom end rot, be sure to provide consistent water to your tomato plants; don’t let the soil completely dry. If you’re away from home for long periods of time, it may be best to setup an automated irrigation system, such as, a drip system.
5) Mulch Your Tomatoes: Mulching will help ensure that your soil doesn’t dry out so quickly; therefore, you’ll need to water less frequently. Mulching can also help to prevent blight, a fungal disease which comes from the soil.
6) Prune Your Tomatoes: When you purchase your tomatoes or seeds, be sure to check the label to find out if your tomatoes are determinate or indeterminate. Indeterminate plants will continue growing and producing fruit all season long until they are killed off by disease or frost. As long as conditions are favorable, they will continue growing and producing. Determinate plants will grow to a genetically pre-determined size, produce their crop and then die off. Therefore, you want to take this into consideration when deciding how to prune your tomato plants. For determinate tomatoes, letting them bush out will get you a larger crop. Therefore, Only prune back what is necessary to keep good air flow to the center of the plant. Thus, I prune any suckers that grow inward toward the center. For indeterminate tomatoes, you have a few options. You can let them bush out a little and they will produce big healthy tomatoes as long as you plant them deep, in good soil, and feed them well. Alternatively, you can prune them back to a single stem. The single stem will grow very thick and strong and the fruit should be larger as well. This method is especially useful for small growing spaces. It’s important to note, that pruning determinate tomatoes back to a single stem will not get you any larger fruit; therefore, it would be a waist to use this method on a determinate plant. Plants that are pruned to a single stem, may be planted 12 – 18 inches apart. I prefer 18 inches. Plants that are allowed to bush, may be planted 3-5 feet apart, depending on how much you let them bush out.
7) Feeding your tomatoes: Tomatoes are heavy feeders; however, if you start with good soil that is amended with lots of organic mater, compost, and the correct PH, you should be OK. I like to side dress my tomatoes with worm castings & coffee grounds. You may choose to use an all purpose organic fertilizer as well. Applications of compost tea every 3rd watering would definitely be preferred; however, if you don’t have compost tea, don’t sweat it. You can still grow fantastic tomatoes organically.
8) Deterring Pests and Fungus: Keep a look out for aphids and other pests. Frequently check the stems and underside of the leaves. I like to use an organic 3 in 1 insecticide & fungicide; neem oil works great. If you suspect pests or a fungus, spray the stems & leaves on both the bottom and top. To deter birds from pecking your tomatoes, simply provide a water source for them near by. Be sure to keep your tomatoes off the ground by using a tomato cage or trellis of some sort. There are many options.

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