When researching the best way to grow tomatoes, I found myself more confused rather than informed because of the many different ways presented in books, online articles, and YouTube videos. So I decided to glean as much information as possible, then just do it my own way. This article is not to say this is the only way to grow tomatoes, this is how I did it and found a great abundance of fruit in the summer of 2012 in Zone 7B.
I picked a spot in my yard that gets six or more hours of sunlight a day. I found the plants that thrived the most leaned against the walls of our shop, barn, or house. They seemed to do best with the warmth of the sun reflecting off the building rather being directly out in the open. Those against the buildings also weathered the fall cold longer than those planted in open areas with no protection from the October chill.
As a home needs a good foundation, so too a garden needs the same in the form of soil. I started my foundation in a most unique way, instead of using the dog kennel to keep the dogs contained, I let our canines run free and built raised beds in it to keep the dogs out.
Peat moss, vermiculite, and compost were my choices for a self-mix recipe to create the perfect soil conditions. I saved money by mixing them in a wheelbarrow, wetting it down completely, and finally shoveling it in between the forms.
While some, I started on my own, others I purchased at a garden center, and a local high school's horticulture class. Ironically, the tomatoes from the high school were much healthier than those I paid more money for at a local home center.
Juliet, Sweet 100 cherry, Beefsteak, Early Girl, Roma, and Oregon Spring were my choices for this first year at trying to grow an abundant harvest. My favorite variety was the Juliet hybrid. I was amazed at the hundreds of plum shaped tomatoes I picked off just one very tall plant that climbed so high up the barn wall I gave up trying to stake it and let it slightly fall over.
For the strongest center and an abundance of fruit, I planted them sideways in about five inches or so of soil, giving them at least a foot between plants and plenty of room in front of them. Tomatoes can also be planted very deep leaving only about a quarter of the seedling above the soil. Crowding tomatoes will stunt their growth and limit fruit production, so I was careful to give them each plenty of room.
As soon as I noticed any suckers, I diligently plucked them off, leaving only one trunk growing upright. A couple of times I erred and plucked off the main stem, causing a Roma plant to stop growing taller, but it didn't seem to stop the fruit production.
The plucked suckers were transplanted into the ground, watered, and in a couple of days more tomato vines were supported in a whole new location on our one acre property. Tomatoes everywhere!
In my opinion, even though some tomato plants are determinant and some are indeterminant, they should not be a big bush of wild suckers growing every which way, but much more like a tree growing up with leaves and fruit coming only out of one stem. I treated them all the same, pinched the suckers off, staked them, and came out with more tomatoes than I ever thought possible in one season.
Once again, this is the way I grew tomatoes, others have totally different opinions and techniques, especially in the treatment of the different types of lycopene makers.
Wire and pliers were items I used often to stake up my plants as they grew fast in the warm Northwest summer. I trained the vertically tall plants up self-made horizontal fencing across every foot and a half in a zig-zag pattern while weaving the plants and leaves in between.
I watered them daily during the dry hot summer and every other day as the early, cooler fall weather approached. Even though many fall mornings brought frost, most of my tomato plants were undaunted while the cucumbers and bean plants surrendered to an early death.
I only fertilized one time during the season as my self-mixed, composted soil provided plenty of nourishment before that time. I let the tomatoes grow to around two feet tall, dug around them and planted 18 Tbs of 8-5-5 organic fertilizer completing the process with plenty of water.
Thinking about growing tomatoes yourself? My opinion, do your homework: watch videos, read articles, books, magazines, and plan ahead to do it your way, and enjoy a most satisfying and delicious hobby. Best of luck to you growing what you may find becomes your favorite fruit...or is it a vegetable?
See my tomato garden pics here.
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