How to Grow the Perfect Tomato

— Written By Donna Teasley and last updated by
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Tomato Series – Article One

Tomatoes are America’s favorite crop-especially in the South. Neighbors who barely speak to each other during the winter will stand at fence lines comparing the day’s harvest, commenting on color, taste and, of course, size. Why is it that the bigger the tomato is, the better it tastes? How can you become an expert grower of tomatoes? By following these simple guidelines your tomato crop will become the talk of the neighborhood.

Early planting isn’t always the right thing to do. Cold soil, chilling wind and frost can cause problems. Tomatoes planted in May and June will quickly catch up with and over-take those planted during March and early April.

Purchase healthy plants. If it doesn’t look good, don’t buy it. Choose a sunny, well-drained location with plenty of room and plant deeply. Don’t plant in the same spot more than once every three years. Diseases can live in the soil for three years and by rotating your crop, disease presence will remain low.

Mulch a soon as you plant. Mulch can consist of straw, cardboard, plastic or fabric weed control materials or plain old hardwood mulch. The most common disease we have is early blight. This fungus is in the soil and splashing water throws the infected soil on to lower leaves where it moves up the plant, destroying your crop as it creeps upward. Mulching will prevent the fungus from splashing on to your plants.

Keep your plants evenly moist. Allowing them to get too dry can cause root problems down the road. Do not over-fertilize! You’ll end up with sky-scraper plants and few tomatoes.

Stake or cage your plants. If you have experienced blossom end rot in the past, lime your soil before planting. Take care not to till close to your plants, Tiller tines can damage tender feeder roots. If blossom end rot shows up, use a calcium spray early on. This will give your plants the calcium they are missing which is what causes the problem.

Try these suggestions and I can guarantee you that your tomato crop will make you proud. Tomato sandwiches for the whole neighborhood-what a great idea!

plate of tomatoes with first place ribbon