Continuing with our Tomato Success Series, I share my advice to nourish and maintain your tomato plants throughout the summer for a bountiful harvest all season long.
What should I feed my tomato plants for optimal growth?
Potassium is the number one nutrient you need to focus on increasing in your soil when growing tomatoes. Good amounts of potassium give you higher yields, juicier tomatoes with higher acidity, and more even ripening.
Did you know that potassium is required for lycopene, which is the reason your tomatoes are red?
If you are still having fires, save your wood ash (known as potash), as this is fantastic as a side dressing to boost this key nutrient. Just water it into the soil periodically during the summer.
Calcium and magnesium are also essential for your tomato growth. For calcium, I tend to use Nano-cal from Environmental Fertilisers, which is available from Kings Plant Barn. Magnesium can be obtained by watering with Epsom salts, which is really known as Magnesium sulphate. This is available in 20kg sacks from any good farm shop. Remember to add a good balance of these and apply them regularly throughout the growing season, especially when the flowers form.
Maintaining your tomato plant – creating airflow and improving strength
As your plant grows, it will produce laterals which appear next to the stem and above a leaf join. These look like miniature tomato plants and will produce tomatoes. I tend to nip mine off in the first 50cm or so to give my plant more strength.
My advice from years of growing is to remove as many leaves as possible as your plants grow, to enable good airflow. As long as your plant has a third of its leaves, you can remove the rest. The best way to do this is by snapping them downwards. I never use anything metal near a lot of my plants especially tomatoes, as this can cause a negative reaction within your plant.
Regularly check your plant for signs of early blight, especially if there are long periods of rain and humidity.
My top tip for you is to collect all these leaves and put them in a bucket and pour water over them, leave for a day and then pour the water back on your plants and discard the mushy leaves. Honestly, your tomatoes will love you for this!
Regular spraying for optimal health
As part of my fortnightly spray programme, I feed my tomatoes with Effective Microorganisms and Liquid Kelp which maintain the strength and health of the plant throughout the growing season.
These are both fantastic tonics to boost plant and soil health, increase pest and disease resistance, support the plant structure through climatic stress (excess heat, drought, wind etc.), and they will even increase the shelf life and nutrient-density of the produce! Bonus!
I increase spraying both when the plants come into flower and when fruit forms.
Remember, a healthy plant vibration will repel and prevent pests and disease – removing the need to deal with them. However, as we all know, tomato plants can be prone to a lot of pest and disease and the most common pests that can attack tomatoes are whitefly, cutworms, psyllid and green shield bugs.
Remember, as the weather heats up, to be observant at all times!
Good luck with your tomatoes this season – I wish you a bountiful harvest all summer long!