There's a good reason I didn't include tomatoes in my Food Garden Starter 8 Pack. Not because tomatoes aren't tasty, little juice nuggets of explosive goodness. They are. But tomatoes aren't a novice, passive thing to grow. They have a distinct set of planting, watering, pruning and fertilizing requirements that, if ignored, will punish your negligence with foliar fungal infections and shitty fruit yields.
So here's a guide to help you to not be bummered about your tomato growing experience and, instead, have a manic extravaganza of cherry tom bombs all summer long.
PLANT YOUR TOMATO GUY
Start by buying your transplant at a reputable resource centre. Your local superstore doesn't count. Read this for a guide to getting your transplant on.
Tomatoes specifically need to be buried deep into that soft chocolatey soil. Bury about 50 to 75% of the plant, removing the leaves along the part of the stem that will disappear under the soil. New roots will squiggle out along the buried stem, giving the plant a developmental booster.
Give each plant a good long douse of warm water (around 4 litres) within ten minutes of transplanting to avoid transplant shock. You don't want your tomato guy to get all stressed out and wilty.
Also, if you have some epsom salts on hand, throw a half handful into the planting hole. Tomatoes love that shit.
Space tomato plants 18 to 36 inches apart - ish. I use tomato cages so that helps me to figure out how to space appropriately. You can butt the cages right up to each other.
Putting your cages in right after transplanting is a good practice anyhow, then you don't run the risk of puncturing some sweet tasty roots when you shove a spiky cage leg into the soil right around your new tender plant.
Water the shit out of your babe for two weeks after transplanting. You don't want soggy soil but you also don't want that soil drying out at any time while its roots are establishing. After two weeks, place some mulch around them to keep the soil moist during dry weather.
Evenly distributed water is key. If your tomato is marinating in water logged soil it can easily get a gross, mouldy infection and your yield will be screwed.
Also, water at the base of the plant. Try not to get water on the leaves - wet leaves can give your tomato some nasty disease too.
Watch for fruit to appear about 1-2 months after transplanting. Once the fruit has ripened, ease off on the wet t- shirt contest. If you overwater your toms once their fruit has set, it can lead to fruit split which can get icky real quick. Splitting or cracking tends to happen most often when ripened fruit hasn't been watered much and then a big deluge of rain floods out your tomato party. Basically, when the tomato is done growing and a bunch of rain dumps down, it encourages a big water bag growth spurt and the outside skin can't accommodate all the juiciness. SO, if you see a big rain in the forecast and your tomatoes are all in a good, ripe place, cover em up or harvest like a mutherfecker.
DETERMINATE VS INDETERMINATE
Determinate varieties of tomatoes, also called "bush" tomatoes, are varieties that are bred to grow to a compact height (approx. 4 feet). They stop growing when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud, ripen all their crop at or near the same time (usually over a 2 week period), and then die.
Indeterminate toms will just keep growing until they die. They have no sensor to tell them to quit it. You can, however, top your indeterminates toward the end of the season to discourage foliar growth and encourage current fruit sets to ripen.
PRUNE LIKE A BOSS
Look for the tiny new branches sprouting in the spot where a branch meets the stem on an indeterminate plant. These are called "suckers" and they're what you want to remove. Suckers left to grow will take energy from the rest of the plant and cause the plant to bear fewer fruits. This isn't always a bad thing, but strategically removing suckers will help your plant bear large fruit all season long.
Wait for the stems and leaves below the first set of flowers to turn yellow before doing anything. Yellow leaves are leaves that use up more sugar than they produce. As the plant begins to mature, the lower leaves will naturally begin to yellow and wilt.
Remove all suckers and their leaves below the first flower cluster. Do this no matter what kind of tomato plant you have. This keeps the plant strong by helping it grow a sturdy central stem. This should ensure that the majority of the nutrients are sent to the fruits, instead of being wasted on the unwanted growing tips.
That's mostly it.
Go grow some mutherfuckin tomatoes, homies.
Oh yah, I almost forgot: Here are some pictures of tomatoes and cats. (I didn't almost forget. They were the very first thing in this post)