The Tomato Success Series: How to plant your tomatoes for maximum growth

Thanks for all your positive feedback on the Tomato Success Series – it’s great to hear that you’ve been finding it useful. If you are just tuning in, check out my earlier blogs in the series on choosing your tomato plants and preparing your soil.

As I mentioned, I’m on a mission to ensure that all my blog readers have a fantastic crop of tomatoes this season! So let’s dive into my advice on planting your tomatoes – it’s time to finally get them in the ground!

If you have grown your tomatoes from seed, wait until they have four good strong leaves before transplanting them into the garden.

If you have bought yours as a seedling, please inspect them carefully to ensure there are no yellow leaves and also check under leaves to make sure there are no egg sacks of nasty insects hiding.

Don’t be the reason pests or disease are introduced into your own garden!

If you have leaves that look a bit suspect, nip these off with your fingers and dispose of them. The idea is to have a happy healthy tomato plant go into the ground at the start.

Tomatoes can tolerate being planted deep, and my recommendation is to plant in the soil right down to the first two leaves. This will give it a fine start in life, and give it more stability in the long run.

Put your stakes next to your plant as soon as it is planted to avoid going through the roots later on and damaging them. The stake will then be ready to give your plant stability as soon as it is tall enough.

I tend to make a bamboo frame, either in a tepee shape or, at the back of a bed, I put the stakes into the soil and then tie stakes across in a grid. This is a particularly great shape as, later on in the growing season, you can train some of the laterals along these horizontal stakes.

As soon as they are tall enough, your tomato plants should be tied up with a soft tie or an old pair of tights – anything soft and stretchy so as not to rub on the tomato and damage the stem. Tie at every possible opportunity to protect your plant in its rapid growth and prevent it from getting top heavy and falling over onto the soil.

If you are growing normal tomatoes, not dwarf or bush, then they like to be a minimum of 40cm apart. This will give them good space to grow and enable airflow when the humidity comes.

For sweet tomatoes, plant them in an area where they will get at least 6-8 hours of sunshine a day.

Regularly check your plant for signs of early blight, especially if there are long periods of rain and humidity.

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, however you will find that you won’t need all of them. I tend to nip mine off in the first 50cm or so to give my plant more strength.

There is a lot of debate around removing leaves of the tomato plant.

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.

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 as it is like a special tonic for them.

Next week, the Tomato Success Series continues and we will start to look at pest and disease and trouble-shooting the problems you encounter. As ever, feel free to get in touch with me to share your questions or concerns – I’m always happy to help!

Happy gardening!

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