Art Knapp Articles
Best Practices for Growing Tomatoes Part Iin Informational
Tomato season is upon us. Here, today, in our blog, we would like to give you some hands-on, practical advice on growing tomatoes and getting the best results.
If you want to grow tomatoes, there are basically two types: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes usually have a shorter, bushier habit, and they set all their fruit at one time. They do not keep producing over and over throughout the season. The advantages to this type of tomato are that the plants are smaller, and if you do canning, all your fruit will be ripe around the same time.
Indeterminate tomatoes are taller and vining, and they fruit again and again for as long as the summer lasts. There are also “semi-determinate” ones which are some combination of the two. These plants may have one big fruit set plus a few smaller ones and they are likely taller than the bushy ones but not as sprawling at the indeterminate ones. When choosing tomato varieties to grow, lean toward shorter-season ones. You want to be sure you will have fruit before the summer is over.
The best soil mix for tomatoes is something light and fluffy. You don’t want your old dirt that has been used 100 times and will become like concrete when you water it. Jennifer Catherall, a scientist who teaches biology at the College of New Caledonia in the BC Interior, and conducts research on tomatoes, likes a “soil-less” mix. A soilless mix could be any number of ingredients including, but not limited to peat, coir, vermiculite, perlite, and bark. You can certainly grow tomatoes in soil, but just make sure that your soil allows for good drainage and good aeration of the roots. You may want to add some soilless ingredients to whatever soil you have to improve the quality and texture.
You may be growing tomatoes in the yard or in raised beds or even pots. Believe it or not, you can have an excellent yield in pots, and Catherall recommends a roughly 10-gallon pot size for indeterminate tomato varieties. Just remember that if you grow in pots, the tomatoes may need more frequent watering than if they are in the ground, especially on very hot days.
It probably a little early to be planting tomatoes outside—unless they are hardened off and under cover—but when you do plant them outside, consider planting some companion plants with them. Although tomatoes have a “perfect” flower that contains both male and female parts, and the flowers self-pollinate, bees do help. If bees are helping you pollinate, then you will likely get more fruit. Companion plants like Calendula, Pansies, (open-flower) Marigolds, Alyssum, and Zinnia are good choices. You would want something short that doesn’t compete with the tomatoes.
Another advantage of companion plants is that many of them attract the beneficial insects that eat the not-so-welcome ones. Alyssum is famous for that. Mint repels aphids and ants, and attracts bees, although mint can take up more real estate than you want in a hurry. If you are concerned about companion plants taking over, then you can put them in pots near your tomatoes. Companion planting can help you to keep pests under control.
And don’t forget that your indeterminate tomato varieties will need staking, so think ahead about how you will stake them before the plants get too big.
Next month, we will talk more about pests and other tomato problems.
We have lots of tomato plants and seeds and every kind of soil and soil additive in our flagship store in Surrey, and we will be happy to answer tomato questions.
Art Knapp has 15 locations across British Columbia and is well known as the go-to garden centre for everything garden-related. Art Knapp, himself, began the business in the 1940's, and now, 80 years later, you can find more than he ever dreamed of in our stores. Come and see us on King George Boulevard in Surrey.
If you have any questions about this article or want to talk to us about gardening, just give us a call at (604) 596-9201.