If you’re starting tomatoes from seed, be sure to give the seedlings plenty of room to branch out. Crowded conditions inhibit their growth, so transplant them into their own individual 4 in. pot, shortly after they get their first true leaves
Tomato seedlings need strong, direct light. Days are short during winter, so even placing them near a very sunny window may not provide them with sufficient natural light. Unless you’re growing them in a greenhouse, your best option is to use some type of artificial plant lighting for 14-18 hours daily until your tomato seedlings are ready to be transplanted outdoors.
To ensure the plants grow upright and strong keep the young plants only a couple of inches from florescent grow lights. You will need to raise the lights (or lower the plants) as the seedlings grow. When you’re ready to plant them outside, choose the sunniest part of your garden.
Put a Fan on Your Seedlings.
It seems tomato plants need to move and sway in the breeze, to develop strong stems. That happens naturally outdoors, but if you are growing your seedlings inside, provide a breeze by turning a fan on them for 5-10 minutes, twice a day. Another option might be to ruffle them by gently waving your hands (or pick of cardboard) back and forth across their tops for a few minutes, several times a day. It’s a bit more effort, but their wonderful tomato scent will rub off on you (smile).
Pinch and Prune for More Tomatoes
Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They won’t bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant. But go easy on pruning the rest of the plant. You can thin out a few leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it’s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes.
Hold off on the Mulch
Hold off on mulching until after the ground has had a chance to warm up. While mulching does conserve water and prevents the soil and soil born diseases from splashing up on the plants, if you put it down too early it will also shade and therefore cool the soil. Try using plastic mulch for heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers.
I’ve mentioned this previous in some of my other articles, but yes, bury them. Plant your tomato plants deeper than they come in the pot, all the way up to the top few leaves. When planted this way, tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems. And more roots will make for a stronger plant.
Another method is called Trenching whereby you lay the tomato plant sideways. It will quickly straighten itself up and grow toward the sun. Just be careful not to drive your stake or cage into the buried stem.
Water the soil, not the plant – tomato leaves and stems hate getting wet. Do not water from above as this can cause disease and pests to attack the plants.
Water slowly, water deeply – The number 1 rule of watering tomatoes is to make sure that you go slow and easy. Never rush watering tomato plants. Use a drip hose or other forms of drip irrigation to deliver water to your tomato plants slowly.
The Castle Rock Tomato is a excellent Heirloom Tomato variety. This is the tomato that you want to use for canning! They are succulent, juicy and you will absolutely enjoy growing them in your heirloom seed garden.
I hope you found these tips useful. Try them out and let me know how your tomatoes came out this year!
Keep It Growing!