How To Plant, Prune and Ripen Tomatoes Better Than Anyone Else

Plant and Prune Tomatoes the right way:

One of the best things you can do to get your tomatoes off to a good start is to plant and prune tomatoes correctly. Tomatoes like to be planted deeply — with not just their root ball, but also most of their stem buried in the soil.

Why Should You Plant Tomatoes Deep?

When you bury the stem, tomato plants grow roots all along the buried length of the stem. This burial planting process results in a stronger, sturdier plant; one that is better able to handle drought and excessive heat.

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How to Plant Tomatoes — the two methods

Method 1: Straight Down

For this process, you just dig the deepest hole you can, while ensuring that at least a couple of sets of leaves are still above the soil.

This method works fine if you have excellent, loose, fluffy soil, but if you have less-than-perfect soil, you may want to try the next method.

Method 2: Trench Tomatoes

Dig a trench that is long enough to bury the entire plant except for the top couple sets of leaves. It should be deep enough to bury the stem at least three inches deep.

Dig the trench, then lay your tomato plant in it, and cover it all over with soil. You will have the top-most sets of leaves sticking out of one end of the trench.

You can use a small stake to stand the end upright, or just wait — it will start growing straight up in a few days.

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General Tips for Tomato Planting

1. Incorporate plenty of organic matter, in the form of compost or composted manure, into the soil before planting, especially if you are trying to grow in either sandy or clayey soil. If you prefer, you can also grow tomatoes in containers, click here to read our article on Growing Tomatoes Indoors – Container Gardening.

2. Adding calcium to the planting soil may help fend off blossom end rot. Add a bit of bonemeal or a few crushed eggshells to the planting hole.

3. Mulch around your tomato plants to help retain soil moisture and reduce weeds.

Organic mulches, such as wood shavings, straw, shredded leaves, or grass clippings work great.

You can also use red plastic if you would like (some say it increases yields.)

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Prune Tomatoes

In my experience, the years I take the time to pinch out suckers are more productive, not to mention a little neater. When I do not prune, I have found that my plants quickly become large and unruly. Since I tend to grow my plants close together to maximize my space, this is not a good thing.

What does pruning do for a tomato plant, and how and when should you prune if you decide to do so? Here are a few tips for pruning tomatoes.

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Reasons to Prune Tomato Plants:

Pruning tomatoes help direct the plants’ energy toward fruit production, rather than stem and foliage production. Pruning often results in earlier, bigger tomatoes — always a good thing!

Another reason to prune your tomato plants is to maintain a manageable plant size.

Indeterminate tomatoes will ramble everywhere, and, if not adequately supported (or pruned) will end up crowding out other plants.

We do not bother with pruning determinate varieties, because these plants produce a crop all at once, and tend to be smaller plants in general.

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When to Prune Tomato Plants

You can start pruning safely once you see the first set of flowers. Some gardeners like to prune the bottom set of limbs before moving tomatoes out to the field.

You should pinch the suckers (see explanation below) when they are less than two inches tall. This pinching should be done throughout the growing season.

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How to Prune Tomato Plants

When pruning tomatoes, you are trying to remove the suckers that appear between the main stem and the branches.

These shoots will eventually produce fruit as well, so they are not entirely useless, but if you let them all keep going, you will end up with massive, somewhat unruly plants.

To prune tomatoes, merely locate the suckers, and pinch or snip them out.

What Else to Prune

Even after you are done removing suckers, there is still some regular pruning you should do. You should remove wilting, spotty, or dead foliage regularly, as well as any branches that have broken.

Make sure to pick up any tomato that has dropped. Diseased foliage should be discarded, not composted.

Of course, there is a whole school of gardeners who do not bother with pruning, and if it seems like too much trouble, you do not have to prune either. If you decide not to prune, you will need to space your plants farther apart in the garden and cage your plants to support them.

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Split Tomatoes – why does it happen?

Tomatoes those split are a widespread problem among tomato growers. It is frustrating to wait for a tomato, and then, when it is finally ripe, to discover that its split in the last day or so.

Splitting is often caused by irregular moisture in the soil.

Some gardeners prefer to grow tomatoes in drier conditions. They do because they swear that the flavor is better when tomatoes are grown in more sterile conditions.

So, imagine, you have been keeping your tomatoes on the dry side, and then you get a good, soaking rain, any tomatoes that are nearly ripe will usually split due to the influx of extra water.

Splitting can also happen if you do an excellent job of keeping the soil moisture level reasonably even, and then you get a big rain storm.

You can still eat split tomatoes, but be sure to eat them the same day you harvest them — once they split they absolutely will not store well.

Even if you are not planning on eating the split tomatoes, be sure to harvest them and toss them in your compost pile — split, rotting tomatoes will turn your garden into a smelly mess in no time.

Some hybrid tomatoes are supposedly resistant to splitting, but any tomato will split if they get an influx of moisture when they have reached full size and near-ripeness.

It happens to the best of us. Mulching your soil and watering regularly goes a long way toward reducing the likeliness of splitting, but Nature is in charge, and if she decides to dump a few inches of rain on your garden all at once, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.

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How to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors

1. Topsy Turvey method

You can pull up the whole tomato plant including the roots and give some shakes to removes as much soil as possible.

Then, hang the plant upside down, ideally in a cool environment with indirect light.

This method will not be suitable for everyone as some tomato plants are too enormous to apply this technique.

I have heard from gardeners who love this technique, so if your plant is suitable, it might be worth a try.

2. Lock them in:

You can try this method if the green tomatoes are pretty firm and show no signs of color change.

Wash and dry all the tomatoes. Wrap each tomato and place them in a box. Make sure not to stack the tomatoes more than two layers deep.

Store the box in an unheated basement or garage, ideally a place where it is cool and dry. Be careful about moisture.

Routine checks are required to spot any color differences which are signs of ripening. Remove these tomatoes and allow them to ripen on your kitchen countertop.

One drawback of using this method is you lose the fresh flavor which you get if you picked them from the plant. However, the taste is much better than the ones you get from your supermarket.

So, lock in the box method is a clean and straightforward way to yield tomatoes for weeks.

3. The apple technique

This is a simple but effective technique. To ripen the tomatoes, all you have to do is, put all the green tomatoes in a paper bag along with an apple.

So how does it work?

The ethylene gas released from the apple helps ripen the tomatoes. Magic!

That is all there is to it! A few easy techniques and you are well on your way to growing great tomatoes.

Gardening Tipz