8 Tips for Growing Perfect Tomatoes

Written by

4The last two years I’ve tried to grow tomatoes and I’ve failed… miserably.  Both years the plants shriveled up and only produced one or two fruits.  So this year, I’m enlisting the help of tomato guru, Scott Daigre, who runs the annual plant sale Tomatomania.  Tomorrow on Good Food, Scott walks me through the basics and he’s going to assist me thought the spring and summer — until I have a bounty.  I will be growing 3 plants, which I will purchase at next weekend’s Tomatomania in Encino.  Scott recommends that I do an heirloom variety, a cherry, and a standard tomato.  I’ll grow them in pots in my back yard.

Here are some of Scott’s tips:

1. SIZE OF THE CONTAINER: Use a 15″ x 15″ pot at a minimum.

2.  KEEP IT COOL: Use a container that won’t heat up.  Scott recommends wood, pulp or light-colored resin.  If you’re using terracotta, wrap it in fabric (burlap, old drapes, newspaper) to keep it cool.  If the pots will be on cement, which mine will be  on, put some mulch or wood chips under the pot.

3. WHAT KIND OF SOIL: Mix a planting mix or potting soil with compost-rich material (worm castings, compost mix).

4. PLANT IT DEEP: Take off the bottom leaves and plant an inch or two of the stem.

5. WATER: Soak it.  Plants in containers will need more water than those in the ground.  Check the plant several times a day to make sure it’s got water.  After a few weeks, mix up the top of the soil to prevent holes from developing at the side of the pots.

6. SUN: The plants will need 6-8 hours minimum.  If you’re getting more than that, you’ll need to water more.  Add mulch, chips or some kind of covering to protect it from the hot sun.

7. TO PINCH OR NOT TO PINCH: Decide if you want to pinch the “suckers” or side branches.   This will determine if you have a large, bushy plant (not pinching) or a thinner plant (pinching).  Coastal gardeners might want to pinch so they can get more sun to the inside of the plant.  People in hotter areas, should not pinch so they can protect the plant from the heat.

8. FEEDING: Don’t overfeed your tomato plants.  Mix a little fertilizer in your soil as you plant the seedling.  When growing in pots, fertilize every 10 days.  Use a balanced fertilizer.