Tomatoes! Probably the most widely grown edible in gardens everywhere. Nothing makes your mouth water faster… and finding the first baby tomato on a vine is a thrill beyond describing.
But many of us struggle to get those tomatoes to grow and ripen the way they are pictured on the seed packet or plant tag. What to do! How do we fix this?
Honestly, there have been entire books written on the subject of growing big, juicy tomatoes. It isn’t that difficult, though. All you have to do is give your little tomato plant what it needs to grow big and strong and then add in what it wants. Kinda like raising a child, if you’ve ever done that.
So… what does a tomato plant need?
- Air: Enough space between each plant to allow for good air flow. Overcrowding creates perfect conditions for assorted bugs, critters and disease to thrive. Overcrowding also encourages your tomato plants to grow taller, becoming spindly and producing few fruits or only small ones.
- Sun: At least 6 hours of good strong sunlight every day. If you have to choose between morning sun and afternoon sun, go for the morning. It’s not as harsh.
- Soil: The only reason for having soil is to support the roots and thus the plant itself. Soil holds the food and water supplies so the roots can reach what they need to keep the plant healthy and happy. That being said, you can grow tomatoes in good garden soil, potting soil, soilless mixes that are mostly peat moss, etc. I have seen tomatoes happily growing on an old carpet that was kept moist. The plant was sprayed with liquid fertilizer on a regular basis to provide food. It certainly appeared happy and healthy!
- Food: This is commonly called fertilizer. It can be organic (from natural sources) or it can be chemically derived granules. The choice of organic or inorganic is yours alone and your tomato plant isn’t going to care as long as it gets what it needs. Like our own bodies, it can take either form of food and convert it to what it needs… just as we can survive on junk food or healthy food. Regardless of the type of fertilizer you choose, always read the instructions on the package before using it and follow the recommendations for the amount. Err on the side of too little because too much can cause the plant to produce gorgeous leaves and huge vines… and no fruit.
- Water: Water brings it all together. Water moistens the soil or whatever medium you choose to use, so that the roots can grow freely and easily to reach the nutrients that are suspended around them. Water dissolves these nutrients so the roots can absorb them easier. And of course, water makes up the bulk of that sweet, juicy tomato. Not enough water will cause wilting, which is very obvious, and eventually, death.