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How To Grow: Healthy Organic Tomatoes

Written by – Kaitlynn from MIgardener 

Spring is nearly upon us! This is the perfect time of year to brush up on your knowledge of growing techniques. Here at MIgardener, we want to share all of our favorite growing secrets; from our garden to yours. As you read through this upcoming series of growing guide posts, you’ll find there is nothing simpler than growing organic!

It’s important to note that as long as you know the right steps to planting a tomato plant, it doesn’t always matter how pretty it looks to begin with. With the right balance of ph, water, fertilizer, and spacing in the garden; any plant you choose will grow healthy. Start by planting your tomato plants extra deep in the soil, this promotes moisture and encourages a strong root system to form.

Here’s how to properly care for your tomato plant:

Ph Levels:

Tomatoes love acidic soil! Before planting, perform a soil test. The perfect acidity for tomatoes is approximately 5.5. If you need to increase the acidity of your soil, there are a few strategies you can choose from.

  • Rake or water in garden sulfur to the soil
  • Mix 1 cup of coffee with 1 gallon of water and water into the soil
  • Mix 1 cup of apple cider vinegar with 1 gallon of water and water into the soil

Once the ph levels of your soil are just right, then it’s time to make sure your plant will have the capacity to maintain a healthy water content.

Water:

Even soil moisture promotes healthy calcium uptake. Have you ever had your tomatoes crack once they’ve fully developed? This happens as a result of poor calcium uptake, or too much water all at once. Without proper moisture, the plant has a harder time absorbing calcium from the soil because of dehydration and sends too much water to the fruit, making it burst because the skin is weak from a lack of calcium in the cell walls. Just like calcium is good for your bones, it is good for the “bones” of the cell too. When your plant develops without even soil moisture, it also loses it’s ability to properly set the fruit. When a tomato plant experiences even soil moisture, calcium uptake occurs naturally and fruit will set properly. In general a good amount of water per plant is 1 inch. How much is 1 inch of water? Check out this video for a description.

Organic Tomato

Tip: Add a bed of leaf compost to your hole after digging and before placing the plant inside – this increases moisture retention in the soil.

Fertilize:

The best way to fertilize for your tomatoes is to first focus on establishing a strong root system and plant structure. At transplant time we use a one stop solution in our gardens called Trifecta+. It is a fertilizer intended for organic gardening but anyone can use it. It contains slow release and fast acting nutrients to feed all season long. Or if you are the DIY and hands on person you can fertilize in the spring, when the soil temperature reaches approximately 60°f , fertilize with nitrogen rich fertilizers like blood meal (10.00)  and worm castings. Once the plant is green and ready to produce fruit (around early July), switch to a phosphorus rich fertilizers like bone meal in order to encourage fruit setting.

Sunlight:

Tomatoes need lots of sun and will do well in 8-9 hours of full sun. If you cannot provide that much, make sure to at least give them 5-6 hours of nice direct sun and they will be very happy. Fruiting plants like tomatoes rely on the sunlight to not only make the plant grow, but also create sugars which will result in sweeter juicier tomatoes.

Staking:

There are two different kinds of tomatoes: Deteminate, and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes will stop growing at a determined height, and they will put out a determined fruit yield. Indeterminate (our favorite) keep growing all season and fruiting all season as long as the weather allows. Both tomatoes need staking of some form, however indeterminates will typically only need around 3-4 feet of support, whereas an indeterminate should be staked at least 7-8 feet tall in most cases. A furing strip works great. Here is a video we did talking about it.

Spacing:

Correct spacing is vital when planting tomatoes!

Plant tomato plants two feet apart. Giving your tomato plants space may seem silly at first, but they will eventually grow to be tall, wide, and strong if given enough space. Wide spacing in the garden allows for much needed airflow, and decreases the chances of blight spores eating away at your plant.

 

Tomato

 

It’s amazing that following these few simple steps are the key to producing beautiful organic tomatoes! Are you excited for spring? Which varieties are you most looking forward to planting this year?