By Tiffany Selvey, Master Gardener and mama of 1
Last month I gushed over my lifelong love affair with tomatoes and tried to convince you to grow some yourself. Now here we are, in May, and it’s time to plant! Before you set trowel to soil, there are a few things to consider.
When selecting your location for tomatoes, the first thing to consider is sun exposure. Tomatoes will only grow well in full sun — an area that gets at least 8 hours of direct sun every day. This is non-negotiable if you want healthy plants that produce fruit.
Ground vs. Containers:
Full sun might not be optional, but your method of planting is. Tomatoes grow well in the ground, raised beds or containers. Pretty much any variety can be grown in the ground or raised beds, but there are a few things to consider when planning a container garden. First, you’ll want to grow a determinate variety — those that only grow to a certain height and produce a certain amount of fruit. This ensures you don’t end up with a sickly jungle of vines too big for your container. You can even purchase varieties that are specifically for containers. Just look for plants with “patio” in the name.
If you’re growing in raised beds or in the plain old ground soil, I’d suggest indeterminate varieties. This is really where you get the most bang for your buck because they produce fruit as long as conditions are warm enough, which in in Northwest Arkansas tends to be well into October. Look on the product tags or ask a garden center employee if the varieties you’re considering are determinate or indeterminate. Now, if you’re going to grow indeterminate varieties, there’s one more thing to consider…
For small, determinate varieties, those little three ring tomato cages are probably fine. They will not work for indeterminate varieties. I mean, they’ll support your tomato plant until sometime in early June when we get a thunderstorm and ALL your tomato cages will fall over creating a mangled mess of a garden. Ask me how I know. For a sturdy tomato cage, I like these concrete mesh cages that I made myself. They never tip and always keep my plants upright and healthy.
Now that you know what type of tomato is right for you and you have your location decided, it’s time to plant! Here are a few tips for getting your tomatoes off to a good start:
- I like to make a cocktail of nutrients to go in the hole with my tomato plants to make sure these heavy feeders have enough to live on throughout the summer: ¼ cup of feather meal (or other nitrogen source), 1 cup of compost, 2 TBSP of crushed eggshells, 1 TBSP of epsom salts. Put all that in the hole and top it with an inch of soil before placing your tomato.
- Plant your tomato all the way up to about an inch below the top leaves. The buried section of stem will grow roots, building a very healthy root system.
- Always water well after planting!
So, what do you think? Are you up for growing tomatoes this year? Keep us posted on your progress!
Tiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally atwww.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook, instagram and on twitter.