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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.

Growing the Perfect Tomato


University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup, gives simple steps to growing the perfect garden tomato

This cool wet spring has prevented gardeners from getting outside to plant there gardens but it is not too late to plant a favorite of the vegetable garden: Tomato. To achieve the bounty of this fruit follow these simple steps:

-Tomatoes must be planted in at least 10 hours of sun to achieve greatest fruit set.

-Place plants in different parts of your garden at least every year or two to prevent diseases that may live in the soil.

-Space plants to at least 2-3' to ensure good airflow.

-Plant tomatoes deep to the top few leaves or lay them down horizontally to produce stronger plants. Tomatoes are vines and produce roots along the stem.

-Mulch plants with straw or organic materials to maintain soil moisture, temperature and prevent weed competition.

-Water deep and not as frequently. Long deep waterings are favorable to daily shallow waterings. Use a soaker hose or hose head that prevents splashing on leaves.

-Tomatoes require properly timed fertilizer treatments and lower soil ph. Lowering the soil pH makes needed nutrients more available to the plant. Start with the addition of ammonium sulfur fertilizer at time of planting. Follow up with 10-10-10 fertilizer application high in nitrate nitrogen when tomatoes have started to fruit and again in every 4weeks after that. Avoid over fertilization to prevent root damage and unnecessary vegetative growth.

-Use tall trellises, wooden stakes or cages to keep tomatoes up off the ground. Prune out branches that do not produce fruit and suckers at the base of the plant. Some gardeners do not allow tomatoes to produce lateral branching and prune so only the leader and main branches remain.

-Stagger plant when growing multiple tomatoes. Plant half your tomatoes now and a few more in two to three weeks to have multiple harvest dates throughout the season.



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