It is time to get those tomatoes in the ground! I pulled out almost everything in my late spring bed – all the bolted celery, arugula and mature onions – and replaced them with healthy young tomato starts. There are a few things you can do when planting your tomatoes to make them extra happy.
First, dig a hole larger than the tomato you are planting. This will loosen up the soil around the root area, making it just a little easier for your tomato plant to get established. If you have some finished compost laying around, go ahead and stir some in.
Next, soften the root ball just a bit. You don’t want to to hack at the roots, but just loosen them up a bit so they are free to start growing around – not around in circles.
As you plant the tomato, bury it a bit. All those little “hairs” along the main stem will turn into roots if you put soil around it. More roots means a more vigorous, healthier plant as those tendrils branch out into the soil to eagerly gather up nutrients. I leave about 4″ of the actual plant above soil, so that can mean over half is actually buried in the soil.
Finally, mound that soil up around the tomato and create a nice moat around each mound. When you water, it will collect around the base of the plant so the tomatoes get a nice, long drink.
When the weather is in the 80’s with no rain, I water my tomatoes well every other day. Blossom end rot is a common problem with tomato growers, which results from inconsistent watering. That could mean you are over watering or just watering them unevenly – like no water for too long, then a short watering, then a long stretch with no water, then too much water. Most of the time, in my experience, people are simply over watering.
I always grow lots of heirlooms, which generally take longer to ripen than hybrids. So last year I swore I would plant just one Early Girl so I could enjoy that tomato goodness before the end of summer. Did I stick to my plan? Nope! I just couldn’t bear to make room for a hybrid when I could have another heirloom.
This year I experimenting by placing greenhouse plastic over one bed of tomatoes. My goal is to keep them really warm and well watering, hoping that they will grow faster and set flowers sooner. Varieties for the garden this year include:
- San Marzano – the best sauce tomato
- Kumquat Cherry – new variety for me this year, gorgeous dark leaves
- Brandywine – sweet red slicer
- Cherokee Purple – purple, rich and intense flavored slicer
- Pineapple – huge yellow and orange slicer, best tomato for a thick burger
- Black Krim – intense black slicer
- Giant Oxheart – lovely pink heart-shaped fruit, good sauce or slicer
Is my planting advice too late? Are your tomatoes already in the ground? Tell me which varieties you are growing this year!