With the right tips, tomato plants can produce truly magnificent specimens. With these tricks you can soon harvest perfect tomatoes.
Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) can be found in every kitchen and in every good vegetable garden. As one of the most diverse types of vegetable, the tomato occupies a place at the top of the popularity list. However, cultivation does not always go smoothly, and frustration increases with each unsuccessful season. That is why we have put together the most important steps towards the perfect tomato for you.
Caring for tomatoes is easy with the right tricks. With the following 10 tips you can look forward to a rich harvest of the sweet fruits from your own garden.
Tomato tip 10: the right variety
You should be careful when choosing the variety. One of the main reasons for total crop failures is late blight and brown rot in tomatoes, triggered by the harmful pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Choosing resistant and hardy strains may not completely prevent the disease, but it is likely to prevent it. Breeds for organic cultivation are also more suitable for the garden than high-performance varieties that were developed for conventional greenhouses with constantly controlled conditions. By choosing more robust varieties, a reliable harvest and better fruit quality can be guaranteed.
Tomato tip 9: Sort out and prick out
If you don’t grow your tomatoes yourself, but buy pre-grown plants, you should pay particular attention to the condition of the plants. Loose root balls, blotchy leaves or poor growth are not only signs of poor quality, but are also noticeable in the yield. Even those who prefer their young plants themselves should pay attention to these criteria and sort out weak seedlings. These often die when moving into the garden and bear little or no fruit. In addition, they are more susceptible to diseases and can thus also infect healthy plants. For pricking out after sowing, the first sorting out is the right time, and later shortly before planting in the garden.
Tomato tip 8: raise offspring
In the case of firm-seeded tomato varieties, towards the end of the season you can easily collect a little seed for the next year and dry it. So the idea is to grow your own seedlings instead of buying them. Small seedlings quickly develop from the seeds in the sowing soil on the windowsill. However, you should be careful not to give the tomatoes too little space. If the tomatoes grow too tightly together, they shoot upwards in the fight for the scant sunlight, they “ginger”, form thinner stems and set less fruit. The same applies to seedlings sown too early, which have to share the space on the windowsill even in later growth stages. Therefore, the seedlings should be sown in late February to mid-March at the earliest.
Tomato tip 7: the first days in the garden
Young tomatoes should first get used to the conditions in the garden in order to grow optimally later. This is the best way to put the plants outside in the pot for a few days and let them acclimate. If possible, the area should be protected from both rain and excessive sunlight in order to avoid burns on the young leaves. If there is no greenhouse, the seedlings should only come into the garden from mid-May. The young plants are now looking forward to a warm, sunny spot with good ventilation and a nutrient-rich, permeable substrate. Here you can bury the tomato five to ten centimeters deeper than it was in the pot, but remove the bottom leaves. This creates additional roots that give the plant more stability and a better supply of nutrients. There should be a distance of 60 cm between the plants so that they have enough space and sunlight. For potted plants, the pot should hold 20 liters of soil.
Tomato tip 6: fertilizer is a must
In the growth phase, before the first flowers, you should start with regular fertilization. Initially, the plant needs nitrogen in particular, but as soon as flowers begin to form, the need for potassium increases rapidly. A good fertilizer is essential. This provides the tomato plants with long-term nutrients and also promotes healthy and active soil life. Alternatively, three to five liters of compost per square meter can be used as fertilizer. Homemade nettle manure is also a good choice for tomatoes.
Tip: Often times, in the middle of the tomato season, brown-black spots and dents form at the bottom of the still growing fruits, the fruits can quickly become inedible. To avoid this so-called fruit and blossom end rot, care must be taken to ensure that there is an adequate supply of calcium. So you can simply add a little stone flour or lime to the nettle manure.
Tomato tip 5: more flavor, less speed
In the past, the removal of the tops and leaves from tomato plants was often touted so that the tomatoes would ripe and red in the sun as quickly as possible. Today, however, we know that a tomato that grows so quickly has much less flavor and taste. The best tomatoes, on the other hand, grow in the light shade of leaves and are much more aromatic due to their slow growth. For this reason, you should not remove the leaves from the tomatoes and remove the tops from the tomatoes and instead only remove the first leaves until the fruit shoots. In late summer, the inflorescences at the tip of the shoot can also be removed.
Tomato tip 4: a house for tomatoes
In a greenhouse or polytunnel your tomatoes are much more protected from harmful environmental influences such as rain, hail or strong sunshine. This means that the seedlings can also be planted around a month before the tomatoes growing outside. The environmental conditions are also much more uniform, which can lead to a higher yield, especially with more sensitive varieties. Due to the closed sides, there is still less transmission of leaf and brown rot, which is transmitted, among other things, by wind. However, you should ventilate regularly and pay attention to the humidity. If this is too high, the risk of a fungal infection increases. The greenhouse should also have good ventilation options to avoid strong, accumulating heat in summer.
In a greenhouse, your tomatoes are much more protected from harmful environmental influences!
Tomato tip 3: climbing aids
Since the tomatoes, with the exception of the bush tomatoes and cocktail tomatoes, are grown with one shoot, they need a climbing aid so that they do not bend over under the weight of their fruit. Spiral rods made of stainless steel or aluminum have proven useful, but also tents made of bamboo poles or cords that can be loosely wrapped around the plant and attached to the rain gutter, for example. What is particularly practical about the options presented is that they are easy to clean and disinfect or, in the case of the cords, can be renewed every year. In this way, stubborn fungal spores from the previous year can be destroyed. Furthermore, large-fruited meat and stake tomatoes should be stripped regularly. In doing so, the side shoots that arise in the side axils are broken off. Otherwise, the tomato would quickly turn into an impenetrable thicket that promotes fungal infections and would bear smaller, less ripe fruits. However, especially with cocktail and wild tomatoes, the side shoots quickly produce flowers and fruits themselves and therefore the large lower stinging shoots can be kept as separate shoots.
Tomato tip 2: water it correctly!
Proper watering for a tomato is essential to prevent disease. Wrong watering occurs when water splashes on the leaves or is poured down over the whole plant from above. This significantly increases the risk of fungal infections, especially if the moisture persists for a longer period of time and the heavy watering causes soil to splash onto the leaves from below. Instead, it is always poured only below, i.e. directly on the ground. Tomatoes should be supplied with water regularly, even several times a day on hot days. You should never wait until the soil has dried out, otherwise the fresh tomatoes can still burst on the plant. If the temperatures and the ground are even cooler, the tomato is good to be watered with lukewarm water instead of cold.
Tomato tip 1: busy helpers
A large part of the tomato’s flowers are pollinated by their own pollen. This works especially well if the open flowers are gently shaken in the morning. However, because tomatoes have fairly tightly packed pollen, shaking is not always enough to release all of the pollen. In the greenhouse in particular, pollinating insects such as bumblebees and bees improve the fruit set of tomatoes and are therefore also regularly used in garden centers. The flying insects shake up the pollen, collect some of it and distribute it to the various flowers. The rule is: the more, the better. If flowers are pollinated several times, it has been proven that larger fruits develop. So if you want lots of big tomatoes, you can give the hard-working helpers a helping hand with open greenhouse windows and insect hotels. Beekeepers are also happy when they are offered a space for their people in a large vegetable garden and often provide the small pollinators voluntarily. Incidentally, you can see that a bumblebee visited the flower by the small, darker discolored bite marks on the stigmas.