The Q&A Archives: Tomatoes

Question: How can I assure that my Rutgers tomato plant produces some great tomatoes? Last year, for the 1st time, I planted 2 tomatoes and they produced virtually nothing and were very small. Thank you for your help.


Answer: Lots of sunshine, loamy soil and ample water will help your tomato plants perform at their best. You might also mulch after the ground has had a chance to warm up. Mulching conserves water and prevents the soil and soil born diseases from splashing up on the plants.

Once the tomato plants are about 3' tall, remove the leaves from the bottom 1' of stem. These are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems. They get the least amount of sun and soil born pathogens can be unintentionally splashed up onto them. Spraying weekly with compost tea also seems to be effective at warding off fungal diseases.

Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They won?t bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant. But go easy on pruning the rest of the plant. You can thin leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it?s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes.

Water deeply and regularly while the plants are developing. Irregular watering, (missing a week and trying to make up for it), leads to blossom end rot and cracking. Once the fruit begins to ripen, lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars. Don?t withhold water so much that the plants wilt and become stressed or they will drop their blossoms and possibly their fruit.

Rutger's is an indeterminate type tomato (produces fruits over a long season) and may need to be staked upright. You can get indeterminate type tomatoes to set fruit earlier by pinching off the tips of the main stems in early summer.

Hope you have a bountiful harvest!

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