Tomato plants are happiest in direct sunlight, so choose an area where they can get at least 7-8 hours of sun per day. In hot climates, you may need to shade them for part of the day.
Tomatoes are susceptible to blight, and if this is a problem in your area, grow disease-resistant varieties. Other tips to minimize blight are good air flow and watering at the base of the plant, rather than splashing leaves.
1. Keep the soil moist
Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so the soil they’re planted in should be well drained but never too dry. Too much water will cause roots to rot and stunt the plant, while too little can lead to blossom end rot, weakening the fruit or cracking them.
Water tomato plants deeply – 6-8 inches deep around their root ball – to make sure the whole plant gets a good soak. Use a hose, a garden hose with a soaker nozzle or a watering can to direct water to the roots.
2. Keep the roots cool
Keeping the roots cool is a must when gardening with tomato plants. When soil dries out, plant roots have to work harder to extract water and nutrients from the ground, making them more susceptible to heat stress.
This can lead to blossom end rot, a calcium deficiency, and cracking and splitting fruits.
Keep the roots cool by watering deeply (at least once a week) and then checking the top 3 to 4 inches of soil for dryness. If your soil is dry, consider a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to help the plants get a consistent supply of moisture.
3. Keep the fruit dry
Keeping the fruit dry ensures that it will ripen properly and retain its best flavor. This is especially true for large heirloom varieties.
When storing tomatoes, line them up on a sunny windowsill (if they aren’t ripe already) or in a loosely closed paper bag. It’s not the fastest way to ripen them, but it can be done!
When planting tomato plants, plant them a few inches deeper than they came in the pot. This will help the plants develop stronger roots that can grow along their stems.
4. Don’t overwater
Watering too often or too much can quickly ruin a tomato’s flavor or put an end to your plants before the first hint of red fruit appears.
A good rule of thumb: only water when the top layer of soil feels dry to your finger (about 1-2 inches down). That way, you’re not soaking the plant too quickly and drowning the roots.
Overwatering can cause a variety of issues, including yellow leaves, wilting leaves and blossom-end rot. It can also lead to root rot, which is a serious problem that can eventually kill your tomatoes.
5. Don’t overfertilize
Tomato plants are heavy feeders, and if they don’t get enough nutrients from the soil they can quickly deplete it.
They need nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for healthy growth. Too much of any one nutrient can cause a tomato plant to grow thick leaves instead of fruit.
The best way to prevent overfertilizing is to make sure you use a diluted fertilizer at quarter to half strength. Apply it just after the first true leaves (those that look like tomato leaves) appear.
Watch for signs that your plant has over-fertilized, including weak growth, yellow leaves, purple stems, and a lack of flowers or fruit. Most over-fertilized plants can be saved, but they may have to be repotted or replanted.
6. Keep the fruit on the vine
Tomatoes are one of the most rewarding plants to grow, with their delicious, ripe fruit that can be used in sandwiches, salads, pasta, stuffed and pickled, and more.
They are also a great way to add color and texture to your garden beds and patios. That’s why it’s so frustrating when some tomato plants produce green fruits that won’t ripen.
But don’t let these stubborn holdouts get you down. There are a few tricks you can do to help them ripen on the vine. First, you can pluck the green tomatoes off the vine before a frost and bring them indoors to ripen.