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Vegetable Gardening Hints, Issue #056
May 20, 2013

Tomato Planting – Get the best results.

Everyone loves fresh tomatoes! There is nothing better than plucking a fresh tomato from your own garden. Tomatoes are easy to grow and no matter what size garden space you have you can grow a tomato plant. They will grow well in a backyard garden, in a pot on the patio, or even in a hanging basket.

In most northern USA or Canadian climates the best time to transplant your tomato plants is the end of May. Tomato seeds need about 3 months to germinate and grow large enough to be ready to go into the garden so most small space gardener’s purchase transplants rather than start their own from seed. Tomato transplants can be picked up from nurseries, grocery stores and even some big box stores.

Here are 8 tips to get the best results from your tomato plants.

  1. Choose the sunniest spot in your garden.
    There is only one big thing to consider when choosing to grow tomatoes; they need lots of sunlight and warm weather so choose the sunniest spot you have.

  2. Prepare your garden soil and or pot.
    Make sure you enrich your garden soil with organic amendments and fertilizers. If you are growing in a pot choose one that is at least 12 inches in depth or better yet at least 16 inches in depth. Tomatoes have deep roots so they need lots of soil. Make sure you change the soil in the pot every year. If you are growing in a hanging basket the pot can be smaller, make sure you choose a variety that is grown for hanging baskets. The “Tumbler” variety is my favorite for a hanging basket.

  3. Choose a healthy plant.
    Choose a bushy plant that has a sturdy stalk and bright green leaves. Tomato transplants are most commonly sold in 4-inch pots and these are usually the most economical. You can purchase plants in larger pots but you will need to transplant them into much bigger pots anyway so choose the less expensive plant. It is okay if there are a few yellowish leaves on the lower part of the stalk, as these will be removed when you transplant it. A few flowers starting to form are also okay but not necessary. Check under side of leaves for any sign of pests. Starting with healthy plant is one of the first steps to a healthy harvest. Keep your pots well watered and in a sunny but sheltered location if you are not going to transplant them for a few days.

  4. Plant your tomato plants deep.
    When transplanting tomato plants remove any yellowish or brown leaves as well as all the green leaves about 4 inches up from the base of the plant. Yes, remove some of the lower green leaves so that you can plant your tomato plant really deep, at least about 4 inches deeper than in the current pot. This way more roots will form off the stalk making it sturdy and stronger, a strong healthy stalk with help to hold the plant upright.

  5. Water your tomato plants at the base.
    Tomato leaves do not like to get wet so watering at the base of the plant is best. Wet leaves from either rain or a sprinkler can cause tomato blight, which is a black fungus that can kill your plant and fruit in a matter of a few days. Blight usually does not occur until mid summer. If you live in a rainy climate like the northwest it is advisable to find a way to protect your tomato plants from getting wet. If you are growing on a deck or balcony the eave from your roof is usually offers the protection needed, so when rain is forecast move them close to the house. If you are growing in a garden bed construct a shelter using pipe or wood and plastic is a simple and easy way to keep them covered. Tomato plants like a deep watering once a week if they are in the garden, if your are growing in pots a thorough watering every few days is all that is usually needed.

  6. Good air circulation is important.
    Allow lots of space between your plants. Plant them at least 18 inches apart so lots of air can circulate around the plant. This protects them from pests and disease. If you are growing in pots, rotate the pots around the balcony so the plant gets sunlight from all sides. Don’t be afraid to pinch off the lower leaves as the plant gets larger, just bend the leaf upward and them downward again and they will easily break off. Taking the lower leaves off will allow the plant more energy towards producing fruit as well as allowing more air circulation around the plant.

  7. Allow tomato plants to grow upright.
    Staking helps with air circulation, as well as helps to keep the plant upright, which keeps the fruit from touching the ground and rotting. Wire tomato cages, sturdy branches, or stakes are all great ways to keep the plant from falling over. Use twine, old panty hose or string to tie the stalk to the support making sure it is not tied too tight at the stalk with grow larger as the plant grows taller.

  8. Feed your tomato plants.
    Give your tomato plants all purpose organic fertilizer or rich compost when they start producing fruit and then every 2 weeks after that until they have finished producing to keep them happy and producing lots of tomatoes for you to enjoy.

For more information on planting tomatoes

May to do list
  • Harvest lettuce, spinach, radishes that were planted early in April.
  • Continue to successive sow lettuce, spinach, carrots, and radishes.
  • Start winter crops of brassicas in seedling trays.
  • Sow corn, beans, cucumber and squash towards the end of the month.
  • Plant out tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash at the end of the month.

Veggie Recipe

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

  • 1/2 cup earth balance or shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp soda in 1 cup buttermilk OR sour milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups rhubarb (or more)
Topping - sprinkle on before baking
  • 1/2 cup organic 'white' sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup nuts
Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

Living in a tropical or warm climate?

What to grow now
How to grow common veggies

Your vegetable gardening helper

Garden photos


Catherine's bio

Why is Soil so Important is a great new book giving simple and easy instructions on making and keeping your garden soil healthy.

Other vegetable gardening books written by Catherine Abbott, Your Vegetable Gardening Helper.

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Happy gardening!


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