There is no summer taste quite as pleasing as a fresh, ripe, home-grown tomato. Gardening enthusiasts, and even those of us who know little of gardening, enjoy planting the first seeds inside when winter has not yet turned to spring. Quite often tomatoes are the first vegetables people try to grow. Here is a great guide on how to prune tomato plants.
It is a thrill to see the tiny plants begin to shoot through the soil just days after we set them lovingly in a sunny window. We baby-sit them daily, watering carefully, watching for too-dry or too-wet soil, attentive to too much drying sun or too little shade.
Raising young tomato plants from seeds feeds our desire for instant gratification. They grow quickly, spreading out new leaves daily and standing up tall and ready for outdoor planting as soon as the last frost watch is lifted.
Tomatoes are one of the best things to grow when you have a small space. The following are some tips for your small space growing tomatoes:
* Tomatoes should be planted only after the danger of frost has passed if your small space happens to be outdoors. (Which it should be). You can easily find out your frost date by putting in your zip code at almanac.com. * Temperature is an important factor in the production of tomatoes, so plant when days are above 90 degrees F and nights above 76 degrees F. * For the best soil for tomatoes, make your small space deep, loamy soil, that is well-drained and supplied with organic matter and nutrients. * Tomatoes grow best in slightly acid soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8, talk to your local nursery to find out how to make your soil pH right for tomatoes. * Even though you have a small space, fertilize. Tomatoes respond well to fertilizer, especially phosphorus, but try and be careful about using excessive nitrogen fertilizer. This will mean really great vine growth with little fruit. * Choose the right containers for growing your tomatoes, make sure that is large enough to support fully grown plants, have adequate drainage, and never have held products that are toxic to plants. * If you choose a wood product container, avoid one that is treated with creosote or pentachlorophenol (Penta). These treatments are toxic to plants. * Put plenty of drainage holes in the bottom or along the sides of the container. * Raise the container off the ground to allow excess water to drain freely. * Move your tomato plants if needed to get the maximum sunlight and to protect them from harsh weather. * Watering is very important. Containers dry out much more quickly than in a traditional garden. This is especially true in full sun and wind. So when you water your tomatoes, water until water runs out the bottom, but not so much that it is left standing in water. * Check the soil for moisture once a day during hot weather, but be sure not to overwater. * To grow the best tomatoes you can, you need about six hours of direct sunlight a day. So, keep that in mind, and move the plants if necessary to make sure it happens.
So, these are some of the things you need to consider and keep in mind when growing tomatoes in a small space, now to do it do the following:
1. Get a good draining container, and put your well-fertilized soil in it. You will want to do this a few weeks before planting. 2. Make sure the weather is right, that at night it does not get too cold, tomatoes are warm-weather plants, and you do not want a frost to kill them. 3. Buy your tomato plants (talk to your nursery about which are best), you will want to consider dwarf tomatoes or cherry, since your space is small, although, it is possible to grow beefsteak. 4. Install wire (tomato cages) for the tomato vines to climb, around the outside of the container. The plants grow out generally but will grow up if they have support. You can talk to the local nursery about how is best based on the variety of tomato plants you have chosen to use. 5. Water plenty. Check the soil for moisture during hot days, loamy soil is best for tomatoes. 6. Allow for plenty of sunlight. They need at least 6 hours a day of direct sunlight, so make sure they are not planted in the shade. 7. Do not plant too early. 8. Weed if necessary (although that is very rare in a container garden).
How To Prune Your Tomato Plants
Once your little tomato plants are transplanted into your garden, the fresh air, sunshine, and consistent watering will encourage them to grow even more quickly; this is when the babysitting really begins. Tomato plants are vines that need guidance and direction from their gardener.
If left un-staked, tomato plants will grow up, sideways, down and around, and in a heap of a tangled mess. This can allow too much moisture to be retained, causing mildew or rotting. Use a tall sturdy stick to stake your tomatoes early, just after they begin to flower. Remember to use a soft cloth or nylon stockings; string or twine will often damage the main stem.
Tomato plants produce leaf after leaf, stretching toward the sun and looking like a veritable bush. But this is where the gardener must step in and do the hard work of pruning; hard work not because of the work involved, but because it goes against our better judgment. Pruning makes the plant look straggly and bare and not nearly as decorative, but pruning makes for a healthier plant and bigger fruit.
The pruning process begins shortly before the first fruit appears. Once the flowers have begun to fill in, it is time to prune. First, cut off all stems or shoots below the flowering line. Make a clean cut so it will quickly heal. Then, as more flowers begin to appear, more pruning is required.
The fewer stems that are allowed to grow, the bigger the fruit will be, as the sugar in the stems will be diverted into the fruit. More stems might mean more tomatoes, but they will be smaller. Allow your tomato plant to grow 4-6 sturdy stems and then prune the stems just past the flowering line. When new shoots begin to pop out on the main stem, clip them off immediately, as well as any new shoots on the branching stems.
When a tomato plant is pruned, remember, it does not look as pretty. A thick, bushy plant may feed your gardening instincts, deceiving you into believing that a full, leafy plant is a healthy plant. But you simply must decide what you want your tomato plant to spend its energy on leaves or tomatoes.
Tomato plants must be tended daily. Warm, sunny days may cause new shoots to grow several inches per day, if untended; these will take precious sugar away from the cultivated fruit.
If you go on vacation for a week or two this summer, teach the neighbors how to watch for unruly shoots when they come over to water your plants for you. In the end, pruning tomato plants will produce a harvest of larger and more plentiful tomatoes.