Tomato care in itself is very rewarding. In taking care of tomato plants, you can slip away for five minutes of peace each day and take delight in the small changes your tomato care affords.
In caring for tomato plants you may notice the sweet, green fragrance of the tomato leaves as you brush against them filling the air; a new flower truss dotted with yellow star like blooms or the very ultimate, the forming of a brand new baby tomato where once a tomato flower sat. And all before the main performance; the blushing red tomatoes themselves! Yes indeed, tomato care can be most enjoyable.
Caring for Tomato Plants
Tomato care starts with planting out tomato plants that are around 20cm high only after the last frost has shown itself. To be certain of the time to plant tomatoes, plant them May / June; after first hardening the tomato plants.
A sunny, sheltered position is the best place to plant tomato plants. Plant the root ball deeply, to its first set of leaves (with added compost if available) and space the tomato plants at least 50cm apart. The latter allowing plenty of light to make energy and air circulation to keep them healthy. Water in very well. From this point, tomato care differs relating to tomato plant type.
Tomato Care for Cordon (or indeterminate) Tomato Plants
A cordon tomato plant will require care to grow and train it as single stem that can reach a heady 1.8m (6ft). As such, the main tomato stem is gently tied to a stake with sturdy string and sideshoots are pinched out (removed). Sideshoots (or suckers) can be located growing diagonally upwards at the intersection between the main stem and a leaf.
Eventually, when the cordon tomato plant has several flower trusses (if grown outside in a greenhouse / polytunnel) or four flower trusses if grown outdoors, remove the main growing tip of the tomato plant. This directs the energy of the cordon tomato plant into the ripening of its tomatoes before the tomato growing season ends.
Tomato Care for Bush (determinate) Tomato Plants
Bush varieties are an ideal first tomato plant to grow as they don’t require the tomato care of cordon varieties. They are ‘pinch’ free although foliage may need thinning a little to let sun in to ripen fruit. Heavy trusses can be supported on an up ended pot to stay snapping.
As smaller than cordon varieties, bush tomato plants lend themselves very nicely to being grown in a pot on a patio. Hanging baskets are ideal for cherry and grape tomato types. Just ensure plenty of regular watering!
The Value of Feeding and Watering
In caring for tomato plants the old adage of ‘you are what you eat’ is as relevant to growing a healthy tomato plant and fruit, as it is to a healthy person. In a well cared for tomato its taste will surpass its shop bought equivalent and likely, its vitamin content too.
When initially planting tomato plants, add some compost and water them well to give them a good start. As the tomato plants grow and flowers appear, start to feed them weekly with a liquid tomato feed that will be rich in potassium, promoting good fruit production.
Keep watering tomato plants regularly otherwise the tomatoes can split or develop hard black patches (blossom end rot). This may mean that at the height of summer, tomato plants may need watering every two to three days. Once the fruit has set and the weather cools, scale watering back to once a week.
Always water at the base of the tomato plant to reduce evaporation and prevent water splashed onto leaves causing disease. Water slowly and profoundly.
End of Season Tomato Care
Depending on when and where they were planted, tomatoes can be ready for harvesting as soon as July and as late as October.
At the end of tomato season you may have to prune yellowing leaves to encourage the remaining fruit to ripen and to stop disease.
Leave the tomatoes on the tomato plant as long as possible though. Ripening tomatoes on the vine is much preferable in taste to those last green, un-ripened tomatoes placed on a window sill to mature!
Tomato Care Tips
- Another way to be certain of the time to plant tomatoes is to put you fingers in the soil. If it’s comfortable to do this for a full minute you should be good to go!
- Use a mulch around the base of tomato plants to help prevent evaporation and seal moisture in.
- Avoid disease and aid ripening by thinning tomato leaves above and below trusses to improve air circulation and light.