Home Vegetable Gardening – Helpful Tips For Better Tomatoes

There are literally hundreds of different varieties and species of tomatoes. You can get them from very small like a cherry tomato to a larger one like beefsteak, and everything in between. Besides the number of varieties you have to choose from, they come in varying colors and shapes as well. Orange, yellow, red, to name a few colors, pear, plum and grape to name a few shapes.

Regardless of which type of tomato plants you decide to grow, following a few steps can go a long way to hardier harvest, producing more tomatoes than you thought possible and tasting a lot better.

Adjust the pH Level

Tomatoes like soil that is a bit more acidic, (pH level of 5.5 to 7.5), than most plants. In case you don’t remember the pH scale, which measures the acidity of something, it ranges from 0 to 14. Anything under 7 is acidic, over 7 is alkaline with 7 being neutral. You can pick up a pH soil testing kit for a couple of bucks at your home or garden center. Simply follow the instructions on the kit to obtain the reading. If you need to bring the pH level down mix in some compost and manure in the fall before the spring/summer planting season.

Start the Seeds Indoors

Tomatoes like the heat and if you live in an area of the country like I do where the heat doesn’t set it until mid to late June, then you will need to start your seeds indoors to give them plenty of time to grow when they are in your garden. Use a planter pot that is no more than 4 inches in diameter. Place one seed per pot and place the pot on a window sill in your house that receives sunlight first thing in the morning. Keep the water moist but not saturated.

Bury ‘em

When you are ready to move your tomato plants from the indoors to the outdoors don’t forget to bury them deep. When you remove your tomato plant from the pot, make sure you bury them up to the first set of leaves on the plant. Tomatoes can develop a root system along the stems on the plant which is why you can do this with them. This will the plant stronger and more developed.

Remove bottom leaves

Now that you have buried your tomato plant up to the first leaves of the plant, wait until your tomato plants are a good 2 to 3 feet tall and then remove the leaves closest to the soil. The bottom leaves are subject to developing various fungus and rotting problems and if you leave them on those problems will spread to the remainder of the plant.

Remove the Nutrient Stealers

Tomato plants develop what are called suckers. These are growths that form in the “v” sections of the plants stem system. They will never bare fruit and do nothing but require the plant to transport resources to them. Simply remove these from the plant so more of the vitamins and nutrients are heading to the branches that will actually produce tomatoes.

Keep in mind tomatoes require full sun and regular watering. Planting your tomatoes in an area in your garden that receives partial shade will do your plants a great injustice. Similarly, watering your plants only once in a while could stunt there growth, and overwatering will cause blossom end rot. Regular, consistent watering will yield the best results.

Three Insider Secrets For the Home Vegetable Gardener

There is no magic formula to growing great tasting vegetables in your home vegetable garden. Just like anything else in life it takes time, patience and of course effort. Combine all three of these and you are sure to yield so great results.

However, just like a lot of other things in life there are secrets, tips and tricks in home vegetable gardening that will make your life easier, especially for those that are limited on time and or space. Here are some insider secrets that you can implement today in your home vegetable garden.

Companion Planting – This is the process of planting one vegetable in between or near another vegetable. Companion planting has a number of benefits. The most obvious is the use of space. This technique allows you to utilize the space in between bigger vegetables. Another benefit is to attract certain variety of helpful insects that will actually attack harmful ones. For example, white flies can be devastating to a tomato crop, but the trichogramma wasp will actually eat white flies. By planting something near tomato plants that attracts the trichogramma wasp you can virtually eliminate the white fly naturally without the use of chemical pesticides. There a number of great resources, such as the USDA and our own website, that give you companion planting suggestions.

Crop Rotation – This is the process of alternating the location of where you plant a vegetable from season to season. In other words if you plant tomatoes in row one this year, you might want to consider moving them to row three next season. Crop rotation serves a couple of important purposes. Each vegetable uses a certain amount of nutrients, some more than others. For example, tomatoes use a lot of nitrogen. By the end of the growing season the area where the tomatoes were planted will have smaller amounts of nitrogen. The following season you will want to plant a vegetable (herb or fruit) in that spot that will not require as much nitrogen and move the tomatoes to a spot where the soil is high in nitrogen. You get the point.

Raised Beds – Looking for better drainage in your soil and the ability to have your soil warm up faster in the spring? Then raised beds are the way to grow, er um, go. There are a number of methods for raised beds. They range from simply building up the height of your rows, to actually boxes and filling them with dirt. Whichever method you go with is fine, just make sure you do not use any type of pressure treated lumber if you decide to go the box route.

Many home vegetable gardeners simply plant their seeds and go. This is fine, but don’t you want more vegetables for all of that hard work you put into it? Me too. That is why I combine, companion planting, with crop rotation and raised beds. Give it a try with your home vegetable garden. You will wonder why you didn’t try these methods sooner.

Home Vegetable Gardening – Vermicompost

It is something that I talk about in great abundance and that is vermicompost. Vermicompost is the end result of varieties of earth worms breaking down organic material. Their castings are what is called vermicompost.

Extensive studies have shown that adding vermicompost to your soil (more on that in a moment) helps improve it’s physical structure, enriches the soil with micro-organisms, increased of microbial activity by more than 20 times than other forms of compost, and improves your soil’s water holding capacity which leads to savings on water since you do not have to do it as often.

When vermicompost has been mixed in with soil, studies have shown that germination is a bit faster, plant growth is stronger and crops yield more. The root structures of plants are shown to be stronger than plants not grown in a vermicompost mix and the growth of roots are more defined.

The best way you can add vermicompost to your soil is by burying your food scraps and leftovers at least eighteen inches deep. When you do this, worms in your soil ingest the food scraps, and their castings create vermicompost. Most worms can eat as much as their own bodyweight every twenty-four hours. There is no need for you to run out and buy worms (unless you are maintaining a vermicompost bin) to add to your garden, although it will speed up the process. Worms live naturally in the soil under your feet and when you bury food waste they will find it.

By continually burying your food waste throughout the year in your soil you are constantly adding nutrients back to your soil and when it comes time to plant your vegetables, your soil will be ready with everything your plant’s need to grow and thrive.

I recommend keeping a Tupperware bowl with your food scraps until and not burying the contents until it is full or a slight odor begins to form. Don’t worry about the odor that is the bacteria breaking down the organic matter. Do not put a lid on the bowl as that will create an atmosphere for anaerobic bacteria and that is not what you want. Without the lid, oxygen is getting in and that gives you the aerobic bacteria which is much better.

Once the bowl is filled, dig a hole in your garden, dump the contents of the bowl into the hole and cover with dirt. Repeat this process picking a new spot in your garden, not repeating the same spot until every area of your garden has been accounted for with organic matter being buried below it. On a side note, never bury dog or human waste, or charcoal ashes in your garden. They are toxic to plants and worms. Cow and chicken manure are fine.

So before you toss out that leftover bowl of spaghetti into your trash can, consider feeding it the worms that live in your soil. They will thank you for it by returning to you wonderful vermicompost that your home vegetable garden will absolutely love.