The Q&A Archives: better tomatoes and peppers

Question: My tomatoes ahve not been producing as they have in the past. what should i do to prepare and what type of feritizer should i use. thanks so much

Answer: The three keys to growing great tomatoes are choosing a variety suited to your site and your taste, lots of sunshine and regular water.

Provide a rich soil by adding organic matter to the bed and working it into the top 8 - 10 inches of soil. The soil needs to be well-draining.

Tomatoes love heat. Cover the planting area with black or red plastic a couple of weeks before you intend to plant. Those extra degrees of warmth will translate into earlier tomatoes.

Bury tomato plants deeper than they come in the pot, all the way up to a few top leaves. Tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems. You can either dig a deeper hole or simply dig a shallow tunnel and lay the plant sideways. It will straighten up and grow toward the sun. Be careful not to drive your pole or cage into the stem.

Mulch after the ground has had a chance to warm up. Mulching does conserve water and prevents the soil and soil born diseases from splashing up on the plants, but if you put it down too early it will also shade and therefore cool the soil.

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 fungus 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.

Hope these tips help you grow lots of tomatoes this season.

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