The success of the warm season veggie garden depends on the length of your growing season, however following some little but really effective tricks, employed by successful, prize-winning gardeners will ensure that your efforts are rewarded. Most of the secrets for bumper tomato crops are hidden in plant sight but can be easily missed unless pointed out.
1. Deep & thorough soil preparation
Tomatoes require rich, well-draining, and deep soil which will allow their root to run. easy. So you should prepare the beds well in advance.
Single digging is okay, but if you double dig your beds 24 inches deep, your tomato plants will be thankful. Fill the first six inches with organic matter including manure, eggshells, leaf compost etc. Mix in the soil and turn well. Do this in fall and cover the bed with black plastic to keep soil warmed.
When the tomato plants are ready to get into the beds, dig holes 12 inches deep and wide for each transplant. Then remove the lower leaves and place the plants deep in the holes. Fill in with a mix of soil and compost to which you have previously added Epsom salt, or a 10-10-10 fertilizer.
2. Deep watering
Deep watering is much better than shallow watering since it develops a strong root system, and the plants get access to nutrients in the deeper layers of the soil.
Mulching is very important. When it comes to tomatoes, keeping the soil warm is almost as important as watering. Organic mulches like leaves, grass clippings, and straw will help increase the fertility of the soil. You should mulch as son as the tomatoes are planted.
Plastic mulch is a great choice since it is great at conserving warmth. It allows the movement of air and water, but it forms a good barrier between the aerial parts of the plants and the soil as well.
4. Providing support
Without support tomato plants grow upright and then double over, drop to the ground, and grow all over the place. Horizontal stems produce a lot of branches and fewer tomatoes. Vertical growing allows good air circulation and more exposure to the sun, and this means healthy and disease-free plants with higher yield.
You can use stakes, trellises, or tomato cages for support. Before you set plants out, have everything in place in order to avoid disturbing the root system later. Use soft, yielding ties, like pieces of rags.
Pruning is highly important in tomato cultivation in order to ensure big crops. When the first flower cluster appears, remove all suckers growing from leaf axils below that point and tie the plant to the support.
Dedicate the first few weeks after transplanting to growing roots and leaves. Start with good quality compost and a 10-10-10 NPK(nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – K) fertilizer at planting.
After the first four weeks, shift to a low nitrogen-high potassium fertilizer to tone down vegetative growth and give a boost to fruit formation.
7. Topping off
The final pruning step that many gardeners tend to avoid is topping off. This actually represents the growing tip of the stem to stop the growth of indeterminate type of tomatoes. In multi-stemmed plants, all the stem tips should be trimmed. Topping off should be done four weeks prior to the first expected frost date.
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