General Advice on Tomatoes

General Advice on Tomatoes

Tomatoes can easily be grown in Sunnyvale gardens. Most varieties are warm-season. But there are a few varieties that produce ripe fruit before June or after October.
seedlings

Determinant or Indeterminant?

Determinant or Indeterminant?

Fruiting plants, like tomatoes, have developed two strategies for success in passing on their genes: determinate or indeterminate:

Determinant varieties of tomatoes produce one crop (all the tomatoes are ripe at the same time). All lot of them are the cherry tomato type (perfect for patio pots).

Indeterminate varieties produce ripe fruit throughout the season. There is no one jumbo crop.

Starting seedlings indoors

Starting seedlings indoors

Sunnyvale is in USDA climate zone 9. The recommendation is to plant your seedlings in the ground after May 1 when the ground temperature is consistently above 70 degrees. The risk of planting the seedlings earlier is there might be a late frost that kills your seedling.

Seedlings want loose soil so they can easily spread their new roots. I have used peat bag pots (available at most garden stores). I have also used coir fiber pots. You should use potting soil with the coir pots. if you use regular garden soil, it might be too dense and not rich enough.

Plant 2 tomato seeds about an inch apart and barely cover with soil.

Thin the seedlings to one when the they reach 3 to 4 inches tall and have at least two sets of leaves. Plants that are only one inch apart will be fighting for resources.

The tomato seedlings sprout from 10 to 21 days. First you see two leaves: these are the dicotyledons or seed-leaves. About a week later, the real leaves start appearing.

Transplanting your seedling

Transplanting your seedling

Your tomato seedling was started in a peat pot or other small pot and is now several inches tall and has several sets of leaves. It’s time to transplant.

Typically I fill a one-gallon size pot with planting mix. I water it. I dig a hole a little deeper than the seedling pot. I remove the casing from the peat bag or I remove the coir fiber pot from the seedling. I place the seedling and its soil in the hole up to the first set of leaves (this promotes stronger growth). I water the pot again.

Can I skip the larger pot phase?

Can I skip the larger pot phase?

Yes, you can plant your seedlings directly into the ground. But all the above warnings are in place: If you plant the seedling outdoors too early, a late frost can kill it; Your seedling in the ground needs more attention from you (water, weeding, etc).

Where to plant tomatoes outside

Where to plant tomatoes outside

Tomatoes thrive on sunshine. A south-facing wall is the best location. You can plant in other locations (north-facing, west-facing, east-facing, in the shade) but you should expect fewer and slower ripening tomatoes.

Starting outdoors

Starting outdoors

You’re a brave or hardy soul. Forget growing seedlings. Plant the seed outdoors where you want the tomato plant. If you plant them before May 1, there is a risk of a late frost. Also planting in the ground requires consistent watering to promote the seedling.

The soil should be rich. Every year you should enrich your soil with potting soil, manure, or compost. It does not have to cost much. You can obtain free compost from the Sunnyvale Smart Station. Cover the soil with 3 to 6 inches of compost. Work the compost into the top 6 inches of the soil with a shovel. There is generally no need to go deeper.

Plant 3 tomato seeds about an inch apart and barely cover with soil.

Thin the seedlings to one when the they reach 3 to 4 inches tall and have at least two sets of leaves. Plants that are only one inch apart will be fighting for resources.

Planting from pot to ground

Planting from pot to ground

Your tomato in the pot is ready to go into the ground. Prepare your ground soil (see above). Leave this pot outdoors for several days to get acclimatized. Dig a hole slightly deeper than the pot. Place the tomato in the hole up to the first set of leaves (this promotes stronger growth). Water well.

Can you grow tomatoes in pots?

Can you grow tomatoes in pots?

I grow all of my tomatoes in ports (because I have very little ground soil).

Here is the standard requirement: a 12-inch wide and deep pot per tomato plant.

Here are the extremes: In all of the examples below, the yield is lower. Grow a tomato in a one-gallon pot. Grow two tomato plants in a 12-inch pot; Grow 3 tomato plants in a 16-inch pot. Why grow 3 plants in one pot? If you want the variety and do not have the space, why not?

Consistently water

Consistently water

The ideal watering is a deep soak once a week. If you grow your tomato plant in a pot, you could cover the ground with an inch of water.

An alternative is to use drip irrigation. I grow all my tomatoes in pots so drip works best for me. I water every two days for 20-30 minutes. During the peak heat of August and September

Storing your fresh tomato

Storing your fresh tomato

If, at all possible, do not store your tomato in the refrigerator. The cold breaks down the volatile oils that impart most of the flavor.