The tomato is one of the most cultivated vegetables in the vegetable garden. Its many varieties will accompany you throughout the summer: cherry tomatoes for aperitifs, beef heart tomatoes in salads, stuffed tomatoes for large family gatherings. To take advantage of your harvest as soon as the weather is fine, you must sow between January and April, then transplant or plant the tomatoes between March and May.
When to plant tomatoes?
Tomatoes are planted in the garden when there is no more frost. As early as March (generally), move the plants to a garden greenhouse or under a frame, to gradually get them used to the change in temperature.
You can transplant them into the ground once the plants have reached 5 to 7 leaves, after May 14. If you sowed in March and the temperatures are higher, you can transplant the plants in the field at the end of April. Otherwise, wait until mid-May.
Very important: tie the tomato plants to stakes, otherwise the stems, still fragile, may break in case of a gust of wind or heavy rain. You can harvest early tomatoes between mid-July and early August and late tomatoes between mid-August and late August.
But there is no point in planting too early. If there are no more frosts but it is still cool (less than 50°F at night), wait. Your tomatoes may vegetate and will eventually fall behind those planted later.
You have roughly until early July to plant your tomatoes. After that, the fruit will not have time to fully ripen before the cold weather returns.
How to set up the tomato plants?
A well fertile and drained soil, rich in amended humus and soft is the best option if you want your tomatoes to develop properly. It is also important to respect and maintain a comfortable planting distance.
- Dig a hole about 20 cm wide and deep
- When planting, space your plants at least 50 centimeters apart. Cover with soil and water abundantly
- The stems grow high and the tomatoes develop a superficial root system, provide a stake of one and a half meters for each plant and tie the stem to prevent it from breaking in case of heavy rain or strong wind. It is preferable to keep only one stem along the stake.
Tip: Tomatoes develop roots all along the stem when it is underground, so some gardeners position their plants not vertically in the hole, but at an angle (leaning) so that part of the base of the stem is buried even if there are leaves.
Distance between tomato plants
Traditionally, tomatoes are planted in rows. The rows are spaced 30 inches apart, and the tomatoes are planted every 20 inches.
In cooler climates it is better to prune them so that they do not grow too much. This way you can move them a little closer together. On the contrary, in hot climates they can reach unreasonable proportions… You should therefore space them out a little more.
What is the best fertilizer for my tomato plant?
At the bottom of the planting hole, incorporate an organic fertilizer rich in potassium, respecting the dosage indicated on the package. You can use nettle manure, guano, bone meal, ground horn or comfrey. Burying 8 inches of stem (even if it means placing the plant at an angle in the hole) so that roots appear underground at the base of the stem is a real plus.
If there is one disease that tomato growers dread, it is downy mildew. A disease that spreads through the air and develops when the atmosphere is humid or when temperatures are cool.
But there is no need to give up! Some easy actions can be taken such as :
- Set up a shelter to protect them
- Space and aerate the plants well to avoid contagion through the leaves
- Water locally at the base of the plant; avoid wetting the tomato leaves when watering
- Provide a mulch to protect the small foliage at the bottom of the plants
It is better to put your tomatoes under hygrometric stress (lack of water) than to water them too much!
In case of mildew contamination, don’t waste time, cut off the affected parts! And, to avoid the progression of the disease, you can try a treatment based on baking soda, copper or essential oils.