Tomatoes are the most loved vegetable or rather a fruit in the whole world. We can’t simply imagine our food without tomatoes. No, wonder why it is the most homegrown plant. Even though it is very easy to grow at home and requires lesser maintenance, many home gardeners struggle with their plants. No matter how much effort they put, their tomato plant fails after some time. Also, some people complain about the bland taste of their fruits.
The good thing about this plant is, that it is thriving in any type of climate and is adaptable to the temperature as well. The only thing that affects the tomato plant is the quality of the soil.
This post will discuss the top secrets to grow beautiful and delicious tomatoes in your home garden. So, without wasting much time, let’s begin!
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Best Soil To Grow Tomatoes
There is no best soil to grow the tomatoes, instead, you have to prepare the soil and make it best by working on it. Every plant requires different types of soil. Similar is the case with tomatoes. This plant has its own soil requirement which is mentioned below :
1. Ideal Soil For Growing Tomatoes
Although tomatoes can grow in every type of soil except clay, the plants thrive best in loam and sandy loam soils. The reason why tomatoes don’t like clay is their poor drainage ability. If you don’t have any option other than clay, then you can make it work by tilling it and incorporating sand, peat moss, and other amendments.
Make sure that the soil is not very clumpy. It should be well-drained and should have enough moisture-holding ability. Neither excessively dry soil nor wet soil works for these plants. The soil should be moist and loose.
2. pH Requirements of Soil For Tomato Plants
As you may know, pH is the measure of soil’s acidity and alkalinity. A pH value of 7 is neutral, less than 7 is considered acidic while a value greater than 7 is considered alkaline. Different plants require different pH values of the soil they grow in.
Some plants love acidic soil and some love alkaline soil. Coming to tomato plants, they love to grow in soil with a pH of around 6 to 7. You can adjust the pH of your soil very easily by using some additives. For example, you can add lime for decreasing the acidity of soil i.e for increasing the pH value than 7. Similarly, for lowering the pH or increasing the acidity you can incorporate sulphur-rich
3. The Fertility Of The Soil For Tomato Plants
Just like any other plant, tomatoes need the soil to be fertile enough. You can enhance the fertility of the soil by adding a good quantity of organic matter. You can also add potassium and phosphorus-based fertilizers into your soil.
However, never use nitrogen-based fertilizers for tomato plants. The results will be thicker plants with very few and small fruits.
The first and foremost thing before planting the tomatoes is to determine the quality of your soil. You can easily do this by using the soil test kits that are available in the market. By testing your soil, you will be able to prepare it according to the needs of your plants.
How To Grow Tomatoes At Home?
Growing tomatoes at home is rocket science. All you need is some effort and patience to enjoy colorful juicy self-grown tomatoes from your own garden. The process of growing tomatoes can be divided into three steps :
2. Improving The pH Level
Let’s discuss these steps one by one :
Step 1: Tilling
The first step towards growing tomatoes is tilling the soil.
● Select the spot in your garden that gets a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight. The reason is simple, tomato plants love sunlight. Don’t plant your tomatoes near any tree or a building that blocks sunlight. The place should also have a good drainage system.
● After finding the right place in your garden, start tilling by digging about 10 inches deep using a shovel or tiller. Remove the grass and other undesirable plants so that it doesn’t interfere with the roots of the tomato plant. Also, if the garden is wet due to rains, wait till it gets dried.
● Even out the soil by removing rocks, sticks, and other such items. Uproot the weeds and grass so that they don’t grow back.
● Now, use a garden hoe to break the large pieces of soil to make it even and simpler. You can also sift the soil and then break the remaining clods.
Step 2: Improve The pH of Soil
Begin with testing the soil for its pH value and presence of other nutrients. Use a store-bought testing kit for this purpose. You can also take some samples to a nearby soil testing lab and get your results.
As we already mentioned, tomatoes like to grow in a bit acidic soil with a pH between 6.2 and 6.8. Any other value greater or lesser than this is not going to help.
Other than pH, the right composition of N-P-K is also very crucial. For those who don’t know, it is Nitrogen(N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). The right proportion of these minerals is extremely important because the excess of anyone can fail the plant.
● For achieving a pH value between 6.2 and 6.8, you can add either coffee or eggshells or coffee powder. For using eggshells, crush the eggshells well and add about 1 pound of it per 100 square feet of land. If the pH of the soil is greater than 6.8, add a 50:50 mixture of coffee and water to the soil.
● Mix the soil really well after adding the eggshells or coffee and then, retest to check if the pH is between 6.2 to 6.8 or not.
● Improve the nitrogen content of your soil by adding natural nitrogen sources. In absence of the right amount of nitrogen, the plant is likely to be unhealthy. The organic nitrogen sources include blood meal, feather meal, alfalfa, fish meal, etc. Mix any of this compost in the soil using a shovel.
You can also add synthetic fertilizers like ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate. However, be very careful while using them as they can burn your plant.
● For improving the phosphorus content, add some bone meal to it. It is by far the best natural source of phosphorus. Being a slow-releasing compost, it enhances the nutrition of the soil. Incorporate the bone meal into your soil and then take a retest to make sure it is up to the mark. In the case of fertilizers, you can spray rock phosphate and superphosphate.
● Improve the potassium content by using granite dust or wood ash. Either will do a great job. Mix enough quantity with the topsoil really well. In the case of fertilizers, you can use potassium sulfate. As usual, retest to check if it is appropriate or not.
● Make sure you add the nutrients about 6 to 7 inches deep into the soil that you have tilled. This is important to ensure that the roots of the plant absorb this goodness quickly and better.
● Select a fertilizer that has the right proportion of N-P-K. It is written on the container. Make sure you check it out. Also, use the fertilizers as per the given directions.
● Compost is very important for the plant to thrive well. It is slow releasing in nature and keeps on adding nutrients to the soil gradually. It helps the soil to maintain moisture which is extremely important for a tomato plant. Add about a 1-inch thick layer of compost into the soil. The good idea is to add compost that contains bark and granite dust as it is beneficial for the tomato plant. You can easily get this type of compost in any nursery or gardening store.
Step 3: Planting Your Tomatoes
After adding the nutrients, it is important to keep the soil covered so that it can absorb the sunlight. It is important because the plants may not be able to bear the high amounts of additives. Therefore, some weeks before planting the tomatoes, cover the soil with a black-colored plastic sheet. It will help to absorb the heat and warm up the soil a bit.
Here is how you can plant your tomatoes:
● Plant the tomatoes in a row at least 2 feet apart. They need enough space to grow. Space is also important for maintaining them and removing the weeds. Place your plants in rows by maintaining 50 inches of gap between them. It will be easier for you to navigate through your plants to maintain them.
● Tuck the plants by their 2/3rd of the stem into the soil. It will help them to grow stronger and form the roots better by grasping the soil. For this, dig the soil deeper and put the plant inside. Now, cover 2/3rd of the plant with soil.
Avoid heaping the soil around the plant.
● Tomato plants are not very strong. They need support otherwise they tend to fall on the ground. To help this, place stakes. Put a stake about 2 inches far from the plant. The best time to put stakes is to put at the time of planting itself. The measurements of the stake should be 1- inch x 1-inch x 4 ft. Try to put it about 8 inches deeper into the soil, so it doesn’t move and provide better support to your tomato plant.
● As soon as you plant, water the tomatoes. Watering immediately will help them to settle well into the soil and absorb the nutrients quickly. Don’t put heavy pressure on plants while doing so. Use a light shower to water the entire ground.
Tips To Grow Tasty Tomatoes
As a bonus, here are some secret tips for you. These are some of the best ways to grow tomatoes that will be tasty, juicy, and full of flavors. Give it a read and thank us later!
1. Tomatoes Need Direct Sunlight
Tomatoes love sunlight and heat. Always plant your tomatoes in an area that receives direct sunlight for 6-8 hours. Avoid planting it near a building or something that provides shade. During winters grow them in the greenhouse as the days are shorter in that season. If the sunlight is insufficient, then get some artificial plant lighting.
2. Maintain A Gap Between The Plants
Give your tomato plants enough space so that they can grow freely. If you’re growing from seeds then make sure you don’t crowd them. Don’t put too many seeds in the same pot, it will degrade the health of the plants and will make them weak.
3. Provide Enough Air To Your Tomato Plants
Plants need to move in the air to develop strong branches and stems. Although, the garden will get the natural air if you’re growing indoors then place the plant near the fan. Air circulation is very important and makes a big difference to the health of the plant. You can also caress the plants 2-3 times a day to improve the circulation of air.
4. Mulch The Plants
To protect the plants from cold or to provide extra heat, mulch them. If the temperature of the soil is not warm, it will never flourish. The best idea is to cover the soil with a dark-colored plastic sheet for some days before planting.
This will also result in early harvest and better yields. In winters, cover the plants with mulch to prevent them from winter shock.
5. Dig Deeper To Plant The Sapling
If you’re planting from the stem method, then it is important to put the plant deep into the soil. Bury them till only 1/3rd of the plant is visible. It will help the tomato plant to grow the roots quickly and develop a strong stem.
6. Discard The Dead leaves At The Bottom
When your plant reaches 3 feet tall, discard the dead leaves from the bottom. These are the first leaves of the plant which are likely to develop fungus. They don’t get enough sun and air and become prone to diseases. If you don’t remove these, they will infect the other parts of the plant. So, simply pluck them off. You can also spray compost tea once a week to keep fungus away from your plant.
7. Prune The Suckers
Suckers are the extra leaves that grow at the joint of 2 branches. They are useless as they don’t bear the fruits but sucks the energy of the plant. Hence, a good idea is to prune them as soon as possible.
While pruning, make sure you don’t damage the rest of the leaves because they are responsible for photosynthesis and make the plant’s food. You only have to discard a few extra leaves so that the sunlight reaches properly to all parts of the plant. If you remove the leaves in excess, the tomatoes won’t be tasty. Keep in mind the general science, leaves create the sugars by photosynthesis reactions that add flavor to the fruits.
8. Plant Your Tomatoes Alongside Other Herbs
Garlic, onion, and basil go well with tomatoes not only in the sauces and gravies but also in the garden. These plants are said to be the best least repellent. When grown with tomatoes, they can save the planet from harmful nematodes.
9. Stake Your Tomato Plants Before It’s Too Late
There are mainly two types of plants – determinate and indeterminate. Determinate plants are those that produce fruit at once. On the other hand, indeterminate plants are the ones that give fruit throughout the season. While determinate plants are strong enough and don’t need any support, the indeterminate plants will fall grooving on the ground if not provided with the support. So, provide stakes before it gets too late.
10. Water! Water! Water!
Lastly but most importantly, water your tomatoes regularly. These plants are very thirsty and need to be watered deeply. Especially, when they are blooming.
Irregular water supply can cause calcium deficiency and you may lose your plants.
Therefore, water them at least 1 inch per week. During summers, they will need more water. So, spray water lightly 2-3 times a day to quench their thirst.
Growing tomatoes is not as hard as it may seem. With the little patience and care you give them, your tomato plants will pay back by yielding fresh, juicy, and pulpy fruits. From knowing the best soil to preparing it, you know everything by now.
So, go ahead and start growing your tomatoes now. Just follow the simple rules and nurture your plants like babies. They will never fail you.
That’s about it, folks! Happy gardening!