Slice them, dice them, or eat them mouth-first off the plant! Tomatoes are delicious and smell like summer. In addition to a savory snack, growing tomatoes is a celebration of self-care. The nurturing feels so good! Great! Now I just need to learn how to grow these things. Read on, tomatoistas, for a tutorial.
1. Grow tomatoes in pots so you will have more control over the watering. Too little rain and you can water them with a watering can or hose. Too much rain, and you can bring them under and overhang so they don’t rot and get pests and diseases. It makes sense to grow them in containers anyway, because deer, groundhogs, and rabbits will eat tomatoes, so putting the containers on a deck, patio, or any other place that is “close to home” will make even the most adventurous animals too shy to take a bite.
2. Any variety will do. For the advanced, there are determinate and indeterminate varieties, but if this is confusing, just pick any tomato plants from the nursery that look good to you. There are so many kinds of tomatoes! Pick a few different kinds to try!
3. Use a standard potting mix without fertilizers. If you use soil from your property, it might be very heavy with clay or sandy and too light. A bag of potting mix is made for stuff like tomatoes! Fertilizing sounds like you’ll get bigger tomatoes, but tomatoes like it simple. Skip the Miracle-Gro, skip the compost, and save the extra step.
4. Use a container that is the right size. If your tomato plant comes in a pot that is 4 inches wide, plant it in a container that is about 7 inches wide. If the pot is too big, it will hold too much water. If the pot is too small, the roots won’t have anywhere to grow.
5. Plant at the right level. You don’t want to bury the top of the plant or it will rot. Make the soil at the bottom of the plant level to the level of soil in the pot. Also, leave some space on the top for watering. So the bottom of the plant is level with the level of the soil in the pot, but the level together is about an inch and a half from the top of the rim of the container.
6. Squish out any air pockets. After you plant the plant in the soil of the container, push your fingers around the plant to make sure the soil is firm. Roots can grow through compressed soil and can basically grow through rock, but not through air pockets.
7. Water the container through. After planting, give that whole container a good soaking. Avoid watering the leaves of the plants, as this could cause them to rot. Just water the soil.
8. After the initial soaking, only water when the soil is almost dry. Ideally, you want the plant to be soaked, and then you want the plant to almost be dry, and then you want the soil to be soaked again. Nature isn’t usually this ideal. It’s tempting to grow your tomatoes under an overhang and just control the water completely, but tomatoes need to be planted in full sun (7 hours a day of full sun without shade). You could probably have some pretty good success just leaving it out in the rain, and taking it in under an overhang only in cases of raining more than a few days a week, and then watering when dry.
9. Stake with one thin bamboo stake against the main stem. Tomatoes usually have one main stem. A tomato cage looks cute, or maybe oppressive, but the best staking method is to tie the main stem every few inches against a main stake. Keep the ties not too tight so the circulation of the plant isn’t cut off.
10. At the end of the season, bring green tomatoes inside to ripen. Only several kinds of plants will ripen off the vine, and tomatoes are one of them. Maxing out my tomato harvest for snacking and self-care since 2021!