How to Keep your Tomato Plant Happy
Tomato Care Sheet
by Haydee Pampel, LOVGC
When you bring your tomato plant home, you can keep it in the pot it came in for a week or so. You will have to repot or transplant it though - it will need more space. Place your plant in a sunny area that is protected from the wind. Before repotting or transplanting it into the ground, let it sit outside for a couple of days to allow it to adjust to its new environment.
If you are planting in a pot, choose one that is 20-24” diameter (about 20 gallons). Determinate varieties need less space than indeterminate ones.
If you're planting directly in the ground, space your tomatoes 18-24 inches apart along a row.
When you are ready to transplant, use a clean pair of clippers to trim off the bottom branches and leaves. Plant it low enough in the medium so that the place you trimmed will be buried. It will grow more roots at the site of the trim.
Potting soil… If you are planting in pots, choose a good potting soil for vegetables with slow release fertilizer mixed in it. If planting in the ground, mix in some compost with your soil.
Use a fertilizer specifically made for tomatoes. A standard fertilizer usually has too much nitrogen and will give you a large green plant with no fruit.
Install a cage or stakes to support your plant for future heavy branches. Do this right after planting to avoid damaging the new roots that will develop.
Sunshine!!! Tomatoes need at least six hours of sun every day. A south facing location is ideal, but be careful with excessive heat which can be damaging.
Maintaining an ideal temperature range is key to a tomato fruit set. Optimum temps are 60-75F (night) and 60-90F (day).
Water… enough but not too much! Water deeply at the roots, not from above. Wet leaves can lead to fungus disease. Water when soil gets dry. If the weather is too hot, this may mean every day. If soil is dry two or three inches deep, it is time to water. If the leaves turn yellow, you may be watering too much. Decrease water shortly before harvesting to improve the tomato’s flavor.
Protect your tomato from pests. Hornworms love tomato plants and can destroy an entire plant in one night. It is best to keep your eyes out for them and handpick when you see them.
Give your plant a haircut… If your plant sprouts too many branches, prune out those that don’t have flowers or fruit to help the plant use its energy on the branches that are producing fruit.
Do not wait too long to harvest… Once the fruit starts to change from green to streaks of color, it will not get any sweeter. At that point, the plant will start to steal the sugar from the fruit and pests or birds might get to your beautiful tomatoes.
Your harvested tomatoes will continue to ripen on your kitchen counter. Please, do not put tomatoes in your fridge! The cold will kill the flavor.
If you are fortunate enough to have excess tomatoes here is a tip on what to do:
Cut your tomatoes in half. Squeeze as many seeds out as possible. Discard the seeds. Using a coarse grater, grate the tomatoes holding them with your flat hand on the peel side. The pulp will grate leaving the peel in the palm of your hand. Discard the peel and freeze the pulp/juice for future use in sauces, soups and casseroles.
Happy Tomato Growing!