We’ve dug up the dirt on planting tomato plants to help new and experienced gardeners have a successful season.
Q. I know nothing about planting tomato plants. What are some basics?
A. Here you go!
Tomatoes need sun – at least 6-8 hours a day.
Tomatoes don’t like their feet to be wet. Make sure soil is warm before setting out plants. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to plant them too early in spring.
Tomatoes need at least an inch of water a week.
Determinate tomatoes set produce fruit at one time, usually within a 2-4 week span. Indeterminate tomatoes produce fruit until frost.
Q. Should I buy plants or start tomatoes from seeds?
A. If you're a novice, buy tomato seedlings. Wait until Year 2 to start your own plants from seeds. You’ll have a better idea what to expect. (Find tomato plant vendors here.)
Q. How do I choose healthy tomato seedlings?
A. Compare plants at local nurseries and home improvement centers. Look for strong stems, dark green foliage and stocky, compact habit (rather than leggy).
More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. Healthy means better. You can also check tomato disease resistance codes. (See these tips for buying tomato plants.)
Q. What variety should I plant?
A. Get several kinds in order to have a steady harvest. Also, select varieties that have strong disease resistance so that you increase your chances of success right away. Some easy varieties to grow are –
Early Girl: hybrid; true to her name; produces tomatoes in 52 days; indeterminate
Better Boy: popular hybrid, very disease-resistant; 70 days; indeterminate
Big Boy: strong hybrid producer, yields until frost; 78 days; indeterminate
Celebrity: hybrid; early/mid season producer; strong disease-resistance; 72 days; determinate
Brandywine: heirloom; beefsteak; pink color; 80-100 days; indeterminate
Q. How many tomatoes should I plant?
A. Two plants for every household member who eats fresh tomatoes. Four plants per household member if you plan to can tomatoes, make salsa, and process tomato juice.
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