Vegetable Garden Planning - Tomato Gardening

As you begin your vegetable garden planning, there are several elements that are important to the success of your tomato gardening. Some of the things to consider are plant variety, soil composition, spacing, fertilization, and plant support.


There are so many varieties of tomatoes to choose from that sometimes it can be hard to know which ones are best for your area. You also have a decision to make between indeterminate and determinate varieties. Determinate varieties are limited in their height (good for containers or hanging plants), while indeterminate varieties grow to greater heights or act as vines. Whatever your choices, select a variety or varieties that have been proven to do well in your area. Big Boy, Better Boy, Celebrity, are all just some of the varieties that have been proven to do well year after year. Also look for the VFN notation, which means they carry resistance to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, and root-knot nematodes.

Soil Composition

Tomatoes need the best soil you can give them in order to produce well. Use compost or some other form of organic material worked into the dirt to improve the top 6 to 9 inches of soil. Apply 1/2 cup of balanced fertilizer for each plant. You may also want to apply 3/4 cup of lime for each plant. Lime helps balance calcium and will help control blossom rot.


If you plant your tomatoes in rows, leave 3 to 4 feet between the rows. Space your tomato plants 18 to 24 inches apart within the row. If your seedlings are in peat pots, make sure that hole is deep enough to cover the pot with 1 inch of soil. If your plants are taller when you plant them, you should use trench planting. Just dig a long trench for the plants instead of individual holes. Remove all of the leaves from each plant up to the top cluster, leaving just 4 to 5 leaves. Put the plants on their sides in the trench and cover the stem with soil, being careful not to cover the top leaf cluster. Press the soil around the stem, being careful to support it without breaking it.


Fertilizing for young plants should be approached with more care than you might give to mature plants. A starter solution of 1 pound of balanced fertilizer mixed in 10 gallons of water may be used to ensure proper fertilization for young plants. You may want to use a commercial starter solution instead. Use 1 cup of fertilizer solution or less per plant so that you don't run the risk of burning the root system.

Plant Support

No, we are not talking about a group of tomatoes that meets once a week to discuss the problems of cutworms and societal expectations. It is time for you to decide whether to stake the plants or cage them. If you want fewer tomatoes that are bigger than you should use staking. Caging will give you more tomatoes, but they won't be quite as big.

If you decide to stake, use a 6 foot tomato stake for each plant. Drive a stake into the soil about a foot deep and 5 inches away from your plant. Use a soft cloth or nylons to tie the plants to the stake.
Pasture wire and chicken wire are both good choices for tomato cages. Cut a length of 5 1/2 feet, cut off the bottom edge of the wire, form a circle and push the ends into the ground. Drive a few short pieces of wood into the ground around the cage to give it extra support.

When the fruit starts to appear on the vines, fertilize each plant with 2 or 3 tablespoons of a balanced fertilizer. Repeat this every 4 to 6 weeks. Make sure to fertilize the soil and not the stem of the plant. You don't want to burn the plant.

Keep the tomatoes well watered by soaking the soil at least 6 inches down once a week. Composting or mulching also a good idea, especially during the hottest part of the summer.

With just a bit of good vegetable garden planning, your tomato gardening will provide a bountiful harvest that will allow you to eat all you like and still put plenty of way for winter.


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