Tomato planting tips, where to start?

Should you start with live plants or seed?

Live plants are the easiest. I only plant seeds if I can’t find a live plant.

What size tomato plants should you to buy?

Avoid six plants in a container pony packs if you can. Many times pony packs being very small have little soil, dry out quickly, and the plants become stressed.

Look for healthy, “stocky” plants. Avoid leggy plants, drooping, wilting, yellow leaves, dried out soil, root bound, or any plant with little tomatoes on it, basically anything that appears stressed. Stress can easily reduce production. Sometimes you plant two identical varieties side by side and one does well and the other, three feet away, does poorly. Odds are one was stressed. Buy healthy plants.

Four inch containers and on up to larger sizes are OK if plants are healthy. For example, if you purchase a ½ gallon size or gallon size healthy plant, it’s like planting a four-inch size a month earlier, that’s how much additional growth and time you have purchased. When you plant early in the season, say March to early April, four-inch size healthy plants have plenty of time to grow but if you purchase early May a gallon size will be much further along in growth.

Remember, plant new tomatoes after the cold weather below about 50 degrees is over and before the hot weather arrives. Planting a gallon size starter tomato plant gives you a head start avoiding hot weather.

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Once you buy the tomato plants get them planted!!! Too many times, three and four weeks later those four-inch containers of tomatoes are still in those four-inch containers and still sitting on the patio.

They have been forgotten and dried out and brought back to life with water a couple of times. You may have stressed these little guys out and they may not do well, so get them planted ASAP.

Space plants at least three feet apart. I try for spacing of at least four feet. This gives them plenty of room for air circulation.

How deep should you plant your new tomato?

Most books tell you to “plant deep.” This means removing some of the bottom foliage from the main plant. Leaving foliage only on about the top one-third of the plant. Then planting it deeper than how it came. Roots will grow from the stem area you bury. Planting two-third of your tomato underground gives your tomato a good deep root system especially needed when you plant tomatoes in lousy dirt or lousy potting soil/mix.

Use 20-25 gallon containers.

When you use great potting soil, you don’t need to remove the foliage. You do not need to plant as deep. It’s actually better if you don’t. Just plant it the same depth as it came. Good tomato producing vines grow out from the base area of the tomato plant. Just be sure you use great potting soil. See the section on which potting soils/mixes to use. This is what we said about the best potting mixes/soils.

In great potting soil the No. 1 ingredient on the bag should be sphagnum peat moss or peat moss. Such soil can hold up to 25 pounds of water. See which ones to use. Improving your soil will probably be the biggest improvement in your garden; better soil holds more water surrounding your roots 24/7 with moisture. Makes a huge difference. Better soil gives you bigger root systems, bigger root systems give you bigger tops and bigger tops give you more tomatoes and more vegetables in general. Use one of the following.

Left, at big box stores. Right, at Costco during the spring growing season.

When planting label each tomato variety so at the end of the season you will know the ones you liked most and those liked least.

Many people say I have this tomato I absolutely love but can’t remember what it is.

You are welcome to share this information with others—family, friends and clubs, etc. Sharing tips helps us be better growers.

You are welcome to share this information with others—family, friends and clubs, etc.

Sharing tips helps us be better growers.

Dave Freed / the Tomato Guy