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Video:10 Tips for Growing Great Tomatoes

with Pete Nitzsche

Growing great tomatoes requires a few gardening tricks of the trade. Learn more about how to grow delicious tomatoes in your own garden.See Transcript

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Transcript:10 Tips for Growing Great Tomatoes

Hi, I’m Pete Nitzsche, County Agricultural Agent with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Morris County here for About.com. I’m going to give you some helpful tips and techniques for growing tomatoes.

Give Tomato Seeds Space

Tomato seeds are somewhat tiny. But you want to space them out on your pot or growing pot. Some people like to put them in a big mix and then transplant them. Some like to put them in individual cell, one seed at a time. There’s a couple diseases they can get as seedlings, called damping off. If they’re crowded that creates a very moist environment and they’ll succumb to that disease.

Transplant Tomatoes

You also want to give them space to grow, and also if you’re trying to transplant them the roots will be all tangled and it will be much harder to transplant. We usually like to see people transplant them when they have their first true leaf. A seedling will come up with cotalinga leaves, that don’t look anything like a tomato leaf. Just a long leaf. And when we see the first true leaves that’s the best time to transplant them into a larger container.

Give Tomatoes Proper Light

One of the common difficulties that people often have when they are trying to start their own seedlings is – indoors – is the lack of sufficient light. We’re looking at a very sunny window sill, a southern window sill. And trying to get at least 12 to 14 hours of sun on them, those seedlings to get them going, and to keep them compact. Some people use shop lights to grow their seedlings underneath. You want them as close to that fluorescent light bulb as possible. That’s going to keep them the most compact.

Strengthen Tomato Plants

Outdoors the plants are blowing in the wind and that strengthens them and makes the stem more sturdy. So, what you can do is set up a fan near the plants so they blow a little bit - that’ll imitate wind and make them more stocky. Or, brushing the plants once or twice a day with your hand or a stick or something.

Planting Tricks for Tomatoes

It’s not a bad idea to plant tomato plants deep, which is kind of an exception to a lot of other plants. Tomato plants form roots all along the stem. They have root initial. So they’re not sensitive to planting depth so you can plant them deep.

To germinate tomato seedlings they like a fair amount of heat and so it’s not a bad idea to have heat mats. Another gardener thing to do is put them in a warm location, like on the top of a refrigerator for a couple days. And then once they germinate you can move them out where there’s more light.

Mulching is a good thing for tomatoes. There’s all different types of mulches you can use. You can use straw mulch and other organic materials. You can use plastic mulch. Mulches do a couple of things. They help to conserve moisture, keep the soil more evenly moist. The other important thing that they do is help to control weeds. They shade out weeds and keep them from germinating.

Properly Prune and Water Tomatoes

You don’t really want to remove green lower leaves because that’s putting photo synthesis and energy into the plant.The idea of pruning out suckers between the main stem and the leaf is to prune that out and actually what that does is actually increases fruit size. We recommend you cut off or pinch off any suckers before they get to the size of a pencil.

We want to keep water on the tomatoes consistently throughout the growing season. Deep watering once or twice a week. If it’s rained over an inch you probably don’t need much water. But if it’s rained less than that you want to do a soaking watering. One of the keys with tomatoes is you want to water from below or water in the morning so that the leaves don’t stay wet for a long period of time. We probably would be looking at watering 2 – 3 times a week at most.

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