Growing tomatoes this year? You’ll have better success if you follow a few simple guidelines.
• Tomatoes need full sun and rich, well-draining soil. Incorporate organic matter generously, and prepare a raised planting bed to ensure good drainage.
• There are many good varieties, but availability will vary. The main thing to remember is to plant several different varieties and to concentrate on small and medium-sized varieties. Large-fruiting tomatoes do not set fruit well in cool weather (lower than 70 degrees), nor will they set reliably when temperatures climb above 90 degrees on a regular basis. Smaller types will produce far more total weight of fruit.
• Set the transplants 4 feet apart in the garden, and plant them in 4-foot or taller cages that are at least 16 inches in diameter. Keep all shoots pushed into the cages.
• As crazy as it sounds, most gardens will need high-nitrogen or all-nitrogen fertilizer to produce the best tomatoes. Feed your plants every 3 to 4 weeks now through early summer.
• Keep the plants moist at all times (not wet, but certainly never dry to the point of severe wilting). Blossom-end rot of fruit develops when the plants wilt.
• Thump the flower clusters with your finger tip every couple of days to jar pollen loose. This will aid greatly in fruit set, especially if the plants are growing in a protected, still location.
• Watch for pest problems that may show up, then use the appropriate controls as needed.
• If your fruit develop cracks or splits as they ripen, or if birds peck holes in them, harvest them just as they begin to ripen. Let them mature on a newspaper indoors. They’ll have great flavor and the normal vitamin content.